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This tableau picture and essay has been published first at my Flickr news-tableau page on the 18th of november 2012. It had over the years 96,875 views. I republish it today on this blog to be used as a reference in the never ending discussion on social-media on who and what is right and wrong in this part of the Middle East. Tjebbe van Tijen 10/4/2018

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HOW TO REPRESENT THE ISRAEL/GAZA CONFRONTATION or if you want GAZA/ISRAEL confrontation of mid november 2012.

This has been on my mind the last days, seeing the usual Pavlov reactions to the conflict of people taking sides for what clearly are the underdogs, without much thought though of the consequences. There have been several demonstrations already that had as their main slogan STOP ATTACK ON GAZA (1) without even mentioning the attacks the other way around, however primitive the missile technology employed by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades the official military arm of Hamas and other para-military groups.

I am neither pro-Israel nor pro Hamas and see with dismay how each time the warriors from both camps take over. As for Hamas they not only endangers others, but also themselves or their dear-ones and neighbours, because Israeli counter-attacks always come. Forgotten in the turmoil of war is, that the exchange of rockets, missiles and bombs does not only sow fear, kill people and damage buildings and infrastructure, it also is an attack on the many good willing initiatives between citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Their activities are not catching the headlines of the world press. Less deadly, less sensational activities that aim at diminish suffering and easing tension: support of joint economic projects and zones; promotion of free border crossing and travel; helping reconciliation; sharing of suffering by parents from both camps who lost their children in the conflict; joint environmental actions especially about water resources; arabic/hebrew language learning in schools; promoting fair trade products from Palestine in Israel; medical assistance; mixed summer camps for kids from Israel, Palestine and other arabic countries; joint academic research and education opportunities; mixed orchestras and theatre companies; training for conflict resolution; face to face dialogues initiatives; to sum up just a part of this positive spectre. (2) All these good willingness from West Bank/Gaza and Israel added by international partners, attempts to resolve the stalemate, are brutally brushed aside, once more.

WHO IS TO BLAME? WHO STARTED IT?

Was it the summary execution by a missile fired by the Israel Defense Forces on a Hamas leader, Ahmed Jabari, last wednesday November the 14th? A missile hitting him in his car while driving along Omar Mukhtar Street in Gaza City, in the middle of a crowded neighbourhood, killing also his bodyguard. The 8th remote control assassination by the Israeli Air Force since January 2010 in the Gaza strip. (3)

Was it the barrage of 26 rockets from Gaza on the 29th of October into the South of Israel, which – by sheer chance – did hit no Israeli people or property? A rocket launch that – according to the BBC message of that day – was in response to an incident whereby a Gaza man at the border had been shot by Israeli troops, because he was – allegedly – attempting to fire a mortar at Israeli troops? A series of incidents that was summarised by this BBC news item with the header: “Violence ends Israel-Gaza truce.”

BBC correspondent Jon Donisson (based in the West Bank) noted on October the 29th. how precarious it is….

“to pinpoint when a specific escalation in violence started – both sides will always remember what they see as a previous act of aggression by the other which enables them to justify their attacks as retaliation” (3)

There are many other sources that tell the story of how it began in differing ways, from the ‘Palestinian Centre for Human Rights’ to the ‘Electronic Intifadah’ website, and the British group ‘Media Lense’ specialised in scrutinising what they call the “biased” war reporting of the BBC. (4) The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights sums up a whole range of events starting on Saturday November 10th with Israeli army firing an artillery shell at a group of children playing football on a hill 1500 meters away from the border near the east part of Gaza City, killing two of them and a whole serious of subsequent incidents one involving the killing of two “Palestinian resistance” members by Israeli warplanes.

Apart from what has been the real chain of events (5), with each item added or left out, resulting in a change of classification – assault or retaliation – there is the extra input of political scheming on the Israeli political front in the preparation for legislative elections in January 2013. This – cynically – always stimulates the ‘hawks’ in power or the ones aiming at that, to give or call for ‘a good pre-election military show’ in the occupied territories.

—- interlude —-
It was less than a century ago we could still speak of ‘The Levant’ and see a future beyond the vague historical memories of the Mamluk Sultanate and the more recent Ottoman and British empires. The Levant having regional mixed ethnic and religious demarcations that still carried the potential for a new future with very different borders and states as we know them now. There were many plans of reconstructing ‘imagined nations’ from a past that never existed in the way as imagined by all those ideologists, the historical parade of religious and political leaders with their: Zionism, Greater Syria, Greater Arabia, and similar bordering visions of unity and hegemony like Pan-Arabism and Pan-Turkism, or the even greater idea of Pan-Islamism, the ‘Ummah’ as a unification of all countries in the world, deemed to be or become Islamic States.

The positive potential of the actual population of the East Mediterranean countries with its diverse ethnic and religious mix, has hardly been used as a source of inspiration. Each party seeking, finding and proving by means of archeology their favourite slice of historical time to lay a unilateral claim on the land. Political and religious particularism fired by the disasters of two World Wars have created the violent carving up, expulsion and mass migration that ended in fortification and imprisonment of divided populations, we know now.
———–

So the question in the once more flaring up conflict is:

DEFENSE OF WHAT?

Beyond the flood of ‘psychological warfare’ and ‘internet disinformation’ campaigns, that overwhelm us once again, each trying hard to force a singular ‘truth’ on us, there still is the space for multiple visions, a space that needs to be defended.

There is not only war in Israel and Gaza, there is a related ‘cyber war’, invading our social-networks in countries far away from the actual conflict zone. The Israeli army is real-time on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Partisan web initiatives for the Palestinian cause are counter attacking. ‘Ready Made’ arguments are produced by all sides, that multiply and circulating with just a click of a mouse. It is as if we need to make a choice: for of against israel; for or against Palestine. No other options. No ‘middle ground’. A ‘mass mediated dichotomy’ with many reminiscences of ‘Cold War rhetoric’.

We all know that the state of Israel is many times more powerful – in military sense – than any of its subjected regions and neighbours. This does not imply that we should neglect the relative small violent and criminal acts of its adversaries. Hiding or explaining away a smaller crime because of a related bigger one does not help to overcome what remains to be wrongdoing.

The fact that the confrontations between Palestinians in Gaza and Israelis in Israel tends to be mostly through the air by both advanced and primitive forms of artillery, says it all. Direct communications are failing. Israel certainly is responsible for a great deal of the actual stalemate, but not solely so. Israel persistently – for decades – using hard core military tactics only, failing totally in diplomacy, in social and economic measures to ease the situation of the Gaza-strip inhabitants. Murder having become a state endowed practice with remote control assassination as the highest Israel Defense Force attainment. The opposite side presents us – one can not be surprised – with a mirror image of such practice and mindset.

We are once again flooded with images of the shock and awe of modern weaponry, of fear and death, also similar photographic documentation of the terror spread by the uncontrolled launching of home-made rockets.

Weapons of peace are less spectacular. They are also more radical, in the sense that what is demanded is ‘compromise’, series of small temporary practical solutions that ease the life of the Palestinians, no more great and detailed ‘Peace Plans’ but small steps that need to prove themselves in practice, before the next one is taken. The actual self-righthousness, the shining historically polished positions – diamond hard – on both sides will only lead to further killing and destruction. Many say there is no space for such compromise, that the violence perpetrated now is the only thing that is left to the Palestinians.

I think that is just lazy thinking and it will leave people who have of another opinion trapped within a spiralling violence fired by sequences of misdeeds and retaliation that have become so frequent and continuous that any finger pointing to who started first will be countered by the other party with a reference to an earlier incident or act.

Taking sides in the actual conflict for either the Israeli Army or the Hamas military brigades and associated para-military groups, is equal to abandoning people on both the Israeli and the Palestinian side, who are long fed up by these warriors, who have another agenda, without the force of weapons. They need support. They need space to breath, They need some safeguards – especially within Gaza – to be able to speak out without being threatened or even liquidated by the reigning regime over there. (6)

The creation of a new union of nations forming a 21st century Levant / بلاد الشام Bilād ash-Shām may sound as a totally utopian idea, but anybody can see that the group of nation states that have been created in this part of the world are totally unstable and not able to offer their citizens the minimal level of peace each human should be able to enjoy.

An association of nation states into a Union of the Levant – in some way comparable to the European Union – is not a new idea and it may take a long time to come into existence. Still it will give a positive perspective for the whole region.

There are of course pre-formations of this idea in the Arab League which includes the Palestinians with a special status, with the ‘Arab Peace Initiative’ of 2002 which would normalise the position of Israel if it will withdraw from all occupied territories and make arrangements for the return of Palestinian refugees. This plan has only be sniffed at by some Israeli politicians and for the rest been refuted as a plan that has been made about israel without Israel. Still it has some formal status, not in the least with the Obama administration.

There are major shifts taking place in several of the Arab states that are members of the Arab League, other regional and supra-regional associations of countries could be formed. Circum Mediterranean countries have a potential to associate from Spain to Lebanon, Israel and Palestine. Turkey could over time become a member of both the European Union and such a new Union of Levant countries. These are the macro weapons that need to be forced by diplomacy.

Small arms are needed also for construct a peaceful situation. Opening of borders. Relaxing of social economic interaction between areas that are now sealed off. Freeing ways for all forms of assistance and cultural exchange. De-militarisation and reconciliation initiatives, employment opportunities for all those active in weapon production and military activities, and so on… It all may sound too idealistic and silly… still these are the kind of weapons needed for the self-defence of people against the all overruling violent forces of fear and hate.

—-
NB several years ago the then owner of Flickr (Yahoo) classified all my 700 and so news-tabelaus as ‘adukt material’. Completely wrongly as I do no porn, not even erotics, my tabelaus are well studied picture colages and my texts are all in a well controlled non-onscene language… I have protested this indirect censor measure, but only macjibes did answer me… I do not have the time and money to hire a lw firm to deal with the unjust classification of my materials… so bear with e with some of the links, you may need to click and say that you are aware of the (imposed and wrong) status of my visuals:

1) See my news-tableau on Flickr dated November 16 2012, which is a reaction on a call of the Dutch Palestina Komitee fro a demonstration: “Stop Attack On & From Gaza” stop supporting either war mongers side in the conflict”
www.flickr.com/photos/7141213@N04/8189812045/in/set-72157…

Also another reaction on singular views of the conflict, starting with a cartoon by Simon Farr published in The Guardian in 2008 and used again for a call to demonstrate on November 17, in Amsterdam: “Gaza: Israeli Overkill does not legitimise Palestinian Terror Rockets”
www.flickr.com/photos/7141213@N04/8190530957/in/set-72157…

2) List of fifty or so ‘Arab-Israeli peace projects’ that will be hampered by the “defending” warriors on Wikipedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab-Israeli_peace_projects

3) 29 October 2012 Last updated at 19:34 GMT “Violence ends Israel-Gaza truce – Militants in Gaza have fired 26 rockets into Israel, officials say, amid a flare-up in fighting which shattered a brief ceasefire between the two sides.”
www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20120505

4) Here short indications and links to non-main stream news sources that challenge the BBC reporting, though I must say that we can not expect a world news organisation to continuously report on each incident. Even when a local correspondent would send in such reports we can be sure that often things more fashionable or deemed more important will come first. In fact is the dilemma of our whole news systems that they only report when something grows out of hand grossly and than time restrictions and the haste of ‘the news’ as such make that the events that did lead up to a crisis deemed big enough to be represented, are simply left out. Social internet media, that is the good part of it, tend to fill up now-a-days the gap. Blaming of mainstream media is understandable and also helpful to keep up the quality of news broadcasts, but the problems are more structural in the whole idea of having ‘world news in half an hour or so’.

– Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: “New Israeli Escalation against the Gaza Strip, 7 Palestinians, Including 3 Children, Killed and 52 Others, Including 6 Women and 12 Children, Wounded; Sunday, 11 November 2012 – 00:00
www.pchrgaza.org/portal/en/index.php?option=com_content&a…

– Electronic Intifada: “As Israel assaults Gaza, BBC reporting assaults the truth” by Amena Saleem; London 16 November. “On the morning of 15 November, the day after Israel carried out the extrajudicial killing of Hamas military leader Ahmed al-Jabari and unleashed a wave of terror against Gaza’s civilian population, the BBC put an article onto its website headlined: “Gaza rocket arsenal problem for Israel.” / The article goes into minute detail about what the BBC’s diplomatic and defense correspondent Jonathan Marcus describes as “the Palestinian rocket arsenal.” / Nowhere in the article, or elsewhere on the BBC, does Marcus investigate Israel’s weapons stockpile, which is funded to the tune of $3 billion a year by the United States. / There are no reams of paragraphs devoted to describing the different types of bombs, mortar shells, drones, fighter jets, gunboats, tanks, guns, nuclear warheads or white phosphorus shells that are in Israel’s arsenal. Yet, with the exception of nuclear missiles, all of these have been used at some point against the people of Gaza with devastating consequences.”
electronicintifada.net/content/israel-assaults-gaza-bbc-r…

– Media Lens: “Gaza Blitz – Turmoil And Tragicomedy At The BBC” by David Cromwell and David Edwards; November 16, 2012. “The Israeli attacks have routinely been reported as ‘retaliation’ for Palestinian ‘militant rocket attacks’ on southern Israel. In a study of news performance in 2001, the Glasgow Media Group noted that Israelis ‘were six times as likely to be presented as “retaliating” or in some way responding than were the Palestinians.’ A BBC correspondent in Gaza said ‘there are now fears now (sic) of a major escalation of violence’. But the Israeli execution of Ahmed al-Jabari was a major escalation of violence. BBC News reported three Israeli deaths by rockets fired from Gaza with the briefest mention of the earlier deaths of ‘eleven Palestinians – mainly militants but also children’. As ever, there was no explanation of how a Gaza civilian is distinguished from a ‘militant’.”
www.medialens.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=a…

5) A “List of Israeli assassinations” from the 1950s onward can be found on Wikipedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Israeli_assassinations

There are of course a whole series of lists that involve killing by all sides, from Palestinian rocket attacks to suicide attacks, the index page of these lists can be found at:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Israeli–Palestinian_conf…

6) The non-biased Israeli peace organisation B’Tsalem keeps for many years a refined classification of casualties that helps to understand this point.. For the period 19/1/2009 to 30/9/2012 for the Gaza strip and the West Bank. For the Gaza strip it lists: “Palestinians killed by Palestinians = 45”; “Palestinians executed by the Hamas Government = 14.” The number of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces over this period for Gaza = 271, of which 158 are detailed as “Palestinians who took part in the hostilities and were killed by Israeli security forces.”
old.btselem.org/statistics/english/casualties.asp?sD=19&a…

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MARY CLINTON “unfortunate and counterproductive”

JOSEPH TIMMERMANS “premature and unwise”

Two foreign policy Ministers speaking out on the vote on November the 29th 2012 in the United Nations on upgrading the status of Palestine in the UN. The United States voted Against with 8 other states and The Netherlands was one of the 41 abstention states that did vote neither ‘for’ nor ‘against’, still favouring a new Palestinian state, but along another trajectory. In the end 138 of the 193 states of the United Nations were voting ‘for’ the proposal.

Palestine President Abbas called it “the birth certificate of the reality of the state of Palestine”.

The name of the (new) Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs ‘Timermans’ means ‘carpenter’ in Dutch, and thus my association with the Biblical scenes of ‘Joseph the Carpenter’ who has ‘no voice’ in the scriptures, but is believed to be the one who changes the feeding ‘crib’ in the stable where the Blessed Virgin Mary delivered the Child of God, into a ‘cradle’ for the the new born Son of God.

Palestine, the ‘land of milk and honey’, symbolised by a crib to both feed live-stock and as a warm comfortable nest for a new born to be laid down on a cloth covering the straw: either a Jewish ‘tallit’ (Hebrew: טַלִּית) or a Palestinian ‘kufiya’ (Arabic: كوفية).

Metaphorical questions arise from this imagery. One crib for two infants? Two separate cribs, or a Judgement of Solomon whereby Joseph the Carpenter will be asked to take his saw and split the crib into two? There are other possible readings. Is the Holy Infant single or multiple? If more than one, are they twins, Siamese twins? In the case of twins is there an oldest one, having ‘oldest rights’?

The Israeli ambassador at the United Nations Ron Prosor made an absurd historical claim in his speech: “No decision of the United Nations can break the 4000 year old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel”, trying to overbid his Palestinian competitor.

You need to be a true believer to be convinced that virgins can deliver babies. Still, many Christians, do accept the complicated concept of the ‘immaculate conception’ of Maria herself by her mother and father Saint Joachim and Saint Anne. It rendered her “forever free of sin“ preparing her for the ‘incarnation’ of God in the human form of Jesus Christ. Becoming a mother that remained a virgin.

“And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.

There is a strong association with the long raging clerical debate about the ‘immaculate conception’ of Maria and the ‘incarnation of God’ and the tormented way in which these two “new nations” Palestine and Israel were conceived and fail to establish themselves. They are young national states, each with their own claim of an ancient origin. Their concepts are not so much about what exists already and what could happen from there in real life, but more about believe systems based on an imagined past. Concepts of such ‘imagined communities’ (1) are hardened by differing and warring schools of religious leaders, politicians, archeologists, linguists, historians, lawyers, geographers and anthropologists. All of them massage and shape “their facts” to let them fit “their own view” of  “their own promised land”, mostly neglecting the existing reality of other populations and settlements.

The voting on November the 29th in the UN came 65 years after the proposed partition, of what was then the British Protectorate of Palestine, into two states, one of them Israel. Two years later in 1949 Israel became the 59th member state of the United Nations. At that time the Soviet Union was one of the Great Powers that supported the creation of this new state. There was a lot of opposition and dissatisfaction though from Palestinians, finding themselves -in practice – excluded and expelled. All neighbouring Arab states were against the partition as such, or details of how territory was supposed to be cut up. A whole series of violent clashes, over territory and control, delayed the forming of a Palestinian State, that was finally proclaimed in the year 1988. Pro-Palestine votes were 90 from the then 159 member states of the United Nations in that year.

To use – 24 years later – the word “premature” for a vote on further acknowledging the rights of Palestinians to their own independent state, is best expressed with the Jidish/Dutch word ‘gotspe’, ‘chtuzpah’ in English usage, meaning an ‘aggressive boldness or unmitigated effrontery’.

The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Timmermans did use the word “premature” adding another one “unwise” (in Dutch “ontijdig en onverstandig”) and thus he echoed State Secretary Hilary Clinton with her widely quoted catchwords for the pro-Palestine UN vote: “unfortunate and counterproductive.”

Curiously Timmermans, before he accepted the job as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the new Dutch Government formed in autumn this year, has been actively pledging for a pro-Palestinian position in the Dutch parliament and also on the level of the European Union. He has extensively explained away his change of policy with lots of diplomatic finery, but for most voters on his party the social-democrat PvdA, it simply meant a betrayal of principles.

There are now 131 from 193 UN member states that voted for the upgrading of Palestine position toward a ‘de facto’ independent state. Against were 9 states with Canada, the Czech Republic, Panama, The USA and a series of small USA vassal states in the Pacific.

From the 41 states that chose to abstain from voting there was a big contingent from the European Union. The European Union is now split in two camps when it comes to the tactical view on how to favour a peace process in the Middle East with these ‘twins’ that do not want to fit in the same crib.

In favour: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Cyprus, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Sweden.

Abstentions: Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.

It should be noted that two world powers, other than the United States, China and the Russian Federation, have voted pro-Palestine.

How “unfortunate and counterproductive” the merely symbolic vote for the new Palestine state will be, will not only be determined by the State of Israel. The first reactions of the big loss of support for Israel in the UN were immediately followed by the usual Israeli accusations of “lies” being told by the President of Palestine, and punishing measures: expansion of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land, freezing of tax and other assets in Israel belonging to the Palestinian Authority.

A signal has been given now by the majority of members of the United Nations, that they want to see an end to what has become known as ‘the endless conflict’. It is a signal, not so much to ‘the old warrior guard’ that is leading Israel on the path of ‘no solution’ expressed by the continuous state of ‘low-intensity and asymmetrical war’ with an imprisoned neighbour, but to the Israeli population at large.

OnlySelfDefenceIsraelGaza2

A continuous state of ‘low-intensity and asymmetrical war’. for a detailed report the November 2012 Gaza/Israel clashes see the extensive caption for this summarising visual depiction at my Flickr page (2)

Time for Israelis to think up a non-military vision of the future. Time for a new generation of politicians. Politicians that have to differentiate themselves fundamentally from all those who have failed in the past, decade after decade. Time to stop coming up with solutions that generate even more problems, with ‘the wall’ as one of the most obvious examples. Time to reflect on the failures within Israel itself with rampant inequalities and discrimination.

AssymetricWarefareOsraelHamas

“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) – Tzahal likes to use quotes from the Scriptures to name their operations. Those familiar with the Scripture would easily understand the meaning of the name “Pillar of Cloud.” According to the book of Exodus, God himself appeared in the form of a pillar of cloud before Jews and accompanied them during their wandering in the desert. Hamas does the same Its latest war against Israel was called “Stones of Baked Clay.” According to the Qur’an, Allah turned the Ethiopian army who invaded Mecca into dust with such stones. Perhaps, Islamists think of their missiles that hit Israel towns as such “stones of baked clay.” This slogan appears on the new logo of Hamas made for their celebration of their 25th birthday as an organisation (lets remember how Israel intelligence forces have had a hand in the creation of Hamas as a method to split up Al Fatah).
The statistics of the relation between number of attacks and casualties on both sides in the conflict is to show how the concept of ‘asymmetrical warfare’ should be understood. A military defeat by the superior forces of Israel, nevertheless, was celebrated as a victory in Gaza City by Hamas with a triumphal parade and a huge stage where the exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, presented himself in front of a stage mockup copy of a long range rocket that is claimed to have been build inside Gaza and is named after it’s range of 75 kilometers. A few these rockets which seem to be based on the Iranian Fajr rockets, have been fired into Israel last November, One landing outside Tel Aviv and another landing in the fields outside of Jerusalem. Note the stage design in Gaza City with a replica of the Wall in Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The same mosque that appears in the Hamas logo.

Time for the Palestinians and their warying camps, to reflect on the failure of decades of militant and military strategies and tactics. Time to go beyond glorifying martyrdom and presenting defeats as victories. Time to allow those Palestinians, who have another vision, at least a voice. To overcome also the repressive violence within the own Gaza and West Bank territories by its own authorities and power groups.

StopAttackOnFromGaza

“Stop the Attack on Gaza – Freedom for Gaza” was the slogan of the Dutch ‘Palestina Komittee’ in November 2012. STOP SUPPORTING A STALEMATE SITUATION I WOULD SAY be more intelligent than be used by the hawks, either Israeli or Palestinian ones! STOP wasting your good intentions taking sides for wrong causes. When you want Peace denounce all military and para-military actions. Only 200 or so demonstrators turned up, that was much lower than usual, maybe a sign to the one side partisans to reflect on their future actions

Time – as well – for all those supporters of the Palestinian cause, not to cast a blind eye on the internal and external violence perpetrated, by the leading Palestinian authorities and powers. Time for outsiders to use their special position as outsiders, to go beyond the usual single partisan support and extend it to those in the Israeli camp who seek other than military solutions. (3) Time to recognize that a balance of ‘means’ and ‘ends’ is needed, that drones, jets, rockets and missiles will only bring disaster from whatever camp and for whatever purpose they are fired.

There are NO ‘immaculate states’ in the world, the foundation of each of them has be done to the detriment of those who were discriminated, excluded, expelled, or massacred. The land that forms the body of a state is hardly ever ‘virgin land’ and most states are not ‘new born’ but ‘reborn’: conquered, recaptured, assembled into empires, associated, federated, divided and redivided.

Whence we overcome the shortsightedness of ‘nationalism’ and use real historical perspective we must admit that man is a migratory being and any state in the world proves to be – in the long run – a temporary entity – in spite of a-historical claims of millennia of state-continuity like certain Imperial China and State Zionist, and Inca-Empire reconstruction advocates claim.

PalestibePartitionPlans1916_1993

Three maps showing partition plans for the Middle East region from the breaking up of the Ottoman Empire and confiscation by Western allied powers in 1916, at first with France, Great Britain, Italy and Russia, the last one falling out because of the turmoil of the Russian Revolution in 1917. The Brits getting Palestine as a protectorate and the subsequent carving up of territories into new – dependent – states, with one of the many maps showing a carving up proposal, between the new states of Israel and Palestine, dating from 1946. These are just three maps of a few thousand, each with their own reason of being drawn. As maps do represent always some kind of intend. There are no objective maps, let alone objective maps that treat history from different viewpoints in an equal way. When one reads through the thousands of partisan web pages pro/contra Israel, pro/contra Palestine now-a-days one always will see some maps coming up and people trying to make their point, or dismiss someone’s argument, all because of a certain map being reproduced. My idea of an Interactive Digital Atlas of all those maps would be hardly possible to make, its editorial committee would fail within a short time, accusations and denunciations would take up all of the time before real work even could have been started.

When we imagine an interactive map of the Middle East showing in layers all the complexities of ethnicity, religion, kingdoms, empires, states, colonies, protectorates, special zones and so on, it will become clear, that choosing any specific historical layer as a model for a future redivision of territory, will produce a chain-reaction of new problems and new violence. (3) Recent examples galore: the split up of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the ethnic cleansing between by Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey, the reemergence of the Balkan conflict, such an overview would be too long a list for this article.

The crib of of Palestine will thus need to be adjusted to give equal place to the two infants. A readjustment not in one big violent reshuffle, but in a constant series of smaller changes, allowing the by now elderly infant-states to accommodate themselves as good as possible in this cramped space.

Re-inhabiting and re-distributing the land and in this process finding more space by breaking down both physical barriers and mental borders.

Can we allow ourselves to see the United Nations as the ‘Holy Family’ that will be so ‘wise’ and ‘fortunate’ to find ways to assist this process?

—-
(1) Benedict Anderson “Imagined Communities – reflection on the origin and spread of nationalism‘; first published in 1983 (the link is for an extended edition published in 2006).
“Finally, a nation is an imagined community because “regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings.” (p.17) “The fact of the matter is that nationalism thinks in terms of historical destinies, while racism dreams of eternal contaminations, transmitted from the origins of time through an endless sequence of loathsome copulations: outside history. Niggers are, thanks to the invisible tar-brush, forever niggers; Jews, the seed of Abraham, forever Jews, no matter what passports they carry or what language they speak or read. (Thus for the Nazi, the ‘Jewish ‘ German was always an impostor.” Anderson adds this note: “The significance of the mergence of Zionism and the birth of Israel is that the former marks the reimagining of an ancient religious community as a nation, down there among the other nations – while the latter charts an alchemic change from wandering devotee to local patriot.”) (page 136)

(2) 18/11/2012 Tjebbe van Tijen News-Tableaus on Flickr: “Only Self-Defense? ~ Gaza/Israel: Peace Needs other Weapons”

(3) List of Arab-Israeli peace projects on Wikipedia.

(4) G.W. Bowersock “Palestine: Ancient History and Modern Politics” (in “Blaming the Victims – spurious scholarship and the Palestinian Question“; Verso 1988)

“one constantly stumbles over the obstacles thrown up by the deliberate fragmentation of a fundamental unified region. If Palestine, together with Syria to the north, constituted between tem a cohesive and relatively stable area in Roman and Byzantine times, this was, not as some would undoubtedly suspect, because the Romans imposed the structure. They inherited it from the indigenous populations. In taking over Syria well before the Romans annexed Arabia, the Seleucid monarchs did relatively little to alter the cultural and administrative patterns they inherited. And when both Syria and Palestine were firmly within the sphere of Roman and Byzantine influence, the concept of a combined Syria-Palestine as an overall geographical and cultural unity became a reasonable one.” (page 186)
“The fragmentation of recent times has precipitated endless tragedy. Diplomats and negotiators keep hoping that problems can be resolved by carving up pieces to satisfy the various interested parties. (…) In historical perspective the convulsions of the region in the last decade represent a frantic and bloody effort to recapture some of the lost coherence, to restore the natural balance. The Syrian presence in Lebanon, the Israeli invasion of the same nation, not to mention the Israeli seizure from Jordan and Syria, all point to a primordial effort to eliminate, from one side ot the other, the unstable and unwise fragmentation of the area.” (page 187)

I quote Bowerstock just as one of many other examples how each layer of time chosen will generate another perspective on the past and future of this area of the world. Bowerstock published his study “Roman Aarabia” in 1983 with Harvard University Press and he obsreves the difficulty of making such a study not in line with neither the Biblical study tradition, nor the Israeli stae supported archeology for political reasons: “The politics of archeology are everywhere. The late Yigael Yadin was both an eminent archeologist and a political figure. The intermingling of his two carreers is neciely exemplified by the care with which he brought to public attention his discovery of authentic letters of the Jewish rebel Bar Kokhba. These letters survice from the time of the Jewish revolt against Roman rule in the reign of Hadrian.  To a dispassionate eye they scarcely show that famous figure as an inspiring leader (I once called him a pious thug), but nonetheless Yadin was pleased to introduce him to the Israeli public as nothing less than the first president of Israel.(…) Meanwhile, although the Bar Kokhba letters had been given prompt and broad publicity, another discovery made by Yadin and his fellow archeologists has remained unpublished for nearly twenty-five years.” Bowerstock continues to describe that the other letters discovered were less welcome to the archeologist and politician Yadin as they were from a Jewish woman by the name of Babatha who gives another perspective on the once glorified revolt of Bar Kokhba. “It is clear that the relation between Jews and Arabs in the territory south of the Dead Sea was a harmonious one.”  (P.185)

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For years I am on the mailing list of the Israeli Peace movement B’Tselem, as I also frequent several Palestinian human rights web sites…and this week there was this instructive Passover discussion manual in my email box from the American section of B’Tselem. It inspired me to make this simple tableau:

LEFTOVER FROM PASSOVER

You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat matzos (*), the bread of affliction; for in haste did you come forth out of the land of Egypt; that you may remember the day when you came forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life. —Deuteronomy 16:3

Below the text from the B’Tselem email mailing list, just to show another facet of the conflict that is often hidden in over-simplified pro and contra positions. One does not need to fully support these arguments, that is not my reason to post them here, it is important to know that such reasoning and willingness exist. Willingness to overcome the generation long ‘stalemate’ in a land that has for long diverted the streams that channel the ‘flowing of milk and honey’:

Are you tired of your uncle depicting you as the “wicked child” at the Passover Seder table just because you are willing to ask the tough questions about human rights in Israel and the occupied territories? I know I am. But the answer is not to become the “silent child.”

B’Tselem has you covered with some answers. Here are our “four questions” and the answers that will make you the “wise child” at your Passover Seder: (If you are celebrating Easter or just enjoying the early spring, these answers will be helpful too)

1. Why do you call it “occupation”?

There is an international consensus that the territories that were captured by Israel in the Six Day War in 1967, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem, are occupied territories. This is also the US official position under all administrations since 1967. Even according to the Israeli domestic law, the West Bank (or “Judea and Samaria”) excluding East Jerusalem, remains under the sole control of the Israeli military. Only the Israeli military commander via military orders makes law. Any development – be it trash collection or city planning – is done under the authority of the military commander. There are those who claim that the West Bank is a disputed territory. However, there is no dispute that the legal framework, as well as the daily reality governing the West Bank in the last 44 years is one of military occupation.

2. What’s wrong with the settlements?

Despite the fact that international law states that an occupying country is not allowed to transfer its population to an occupied territory, there are over half a million Israelis living beyond the Green Line. The majority of human rights violations in the West Bank are a result of such Israeli enclaves and include extensive exploitation of land and water, massive military presence to protect those Israelis, a network of roads paved to serve them and them only, and the separation barrier, the route of which was largely dictated by the settlements. A radical fringe of settlers remains a source of friction and violence.

3. The Palestinians control their own lives – don’t they have their own government and president?

The Palestinian Authority (PA) was established in 1994 as an interim body – it is not now nor has it ever been a sovereign government. The interim period was supposed to end in 1999 with a permanent status agreement. As a result of the failure to achieve a peace agreement, however, the interim arrangement continues today. In this agreement, Palestinians have control over civil affairs in the 40% of the West Bank that was defined as Areas A and B. Israel retains complete control over the remaining 60% of the West Bank – and security control of the territory as a whole. Because Areas A and B are islands within Area C, Israel controls all movement throughout the West Bank, as well as urban development of the whole territory, the taxation system, the ability to travel abroad, the water resources, and many, many other spheres of life.

Since the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, the Israeli military does not have control on the ground in Gaza. However, Israel still largely controls the borders, airspace, and sea access around Gaza, and also its population registry, tightly limiting export-import and the movement of people between Gaza and the West Bank.

4. How can Israel ensure its own security without control over the occupied territories?

No one can deny Israel’s security challenges. The first obligation of a state is to protect its citizens, and Israelis have been subjected to horrific attacks over the years, one particularly terrible attack killed thirty people sitting at the Seder table, in 2002, and injured another 160. Within this difficult reality it is crucial to understand what are necessary and legitimate security measures and where security concerns are exploited to advance other agendas. This is the crucial role of government watchdogs like B’Tselem, which have documented violations of Palestinians’ basic rights by abusing legitimate security measures. In fact, there is no real contradiction between respect for human rights and ensuring security – and both are in the best interest of Israel’s citizens.

So, why is tonight different than any other night? Because tonight, you are leading an honest discussion about the challenges we face in achieving a just and democratic State of Israel. Be an informed part of the discussion. To learn more, read our latest report at http://www.btselem.org. Click here to read my full op-ed in The Times of Israel, “Four Questions About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”

Next year in a Jerusalem that protects human rights and complies with its obligations under the law!

Chag sameach and happy spring,

Uri Zaki

Director, B’Tselem USA

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(*) For an exposé of the different meanings of the Matzos see this Wikipedia page. I was inspired by these lines: “The other reason for eating matza is symbolic: On the one hand, matza symbolizes redemption and freedom, but it is also lechem oni, “poor man’s bread.” Thus it serves as a reminder to be humble, and to not forget what life was like in servitude. Also, leaven symbolizes corruption and pride as leaven “puffs up”. Eating the “bread of affliction” is both a lesson in humility and an act that enhances the appreciation of freedom.”

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