Throughout my search for a single truth about Palestine and Israel if there is one I’ve considered a number of hypotheses. I wanted to find out whether the future Israeli leaders planned the Palestinian expulsion, were the Palestinians forced to flee, were war crimes committed by the Israeli army in the 1948 War and later conflicts, and are there parallels between Nazi Germany and Israel. Ilan Pappe in the ‘Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine’ showed how the future Israeli leaders planned the Palestinian expulsion and the violence that forced them to leave. Yuri Avneri in ‘1948: A Soldier’s Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem’ and Ari Shavit in ‘My Promised Land’ showed the violence that forced the Palestinians to leave in 1948, and war crimes which were committed by Israeli soldiers which included serious looting. From my reading of Avneri’s book my view is that the 1948 war involved Israeli soldiers clearing towns and villages of Palestinians then looting the homes and ‘conventional war’ with the Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian armies. I’ve outlined in previous posts continued violence since Israel was established.
Some of my readers have found my comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany distressing as I have. I think the Israeli occupation in the West bank has similar ways of controlling the Palestinians there through identity documents that restrict them through deciding where they can live and prevents most Palestinians from visiting Jerusalem and Israel. The occupation on the West bank has created Palestinian ghettos surrounded by Israeli settlements. Finally in Shavit’s book he described his reserve duty in 1991 in Gaza when he and some Israeli soldiers likened their duties to be similar to members of the SS in concentration camps, another reference to Nazi Germany.
Most concerning for me was his rationale that Israelis were obeying orders which German soldiers used to excuse their treatment of Jews and other concentration camp inmates. Even with this experience Shavit can’t believe that anyone involved with the camps is evil. “Government members who represent right wing electors aren’t evil, they don’t hit the boys themselves. The army chief isn’t evil, he carries out what a legitimate elected government requires him to do. The commander of the camp isn’t evil, he is doing the best he can under impossible circumstances. The interrogators aren’t evil, after all they are doing their job. And they are told it is impossible to govern the occupied territories unless they do all this. As for the jailors most of them aren’t evil, either. They only want to leave this all behind and go home.” I find the rationale horrifying because it goes against the most significant finding of the Nuremburg Criminal Court which was that ‘obeying orders’ was no excuse in military conflict when war crimes were committed.
The question for me is what options there are to encourage and support a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian Israeli conflict. The primary problem is the power imbalance in Israel’s military power, it’s control of the media, the occupation and Palestine’s dependence on aid to fund it. Western powers aren’t objective in the way they’ve supported negotiations between Palestine and Israel and they’ve not challenged Israeli violations of UN Resolutions. They’ve effectively given the Israeli government permission to breach Resolutions and continue to expand illegal settlements of the West bank with impunity. Its concerning that in the most recent elections that Binyamin Netanyahu said that he wouldn’t be willing to agree a Palestinian State. I don’t think that his later change of view under US pressure is convincing.
World powers have a history of being weak in international affairs when challenged, the most relevant example being British agreement to the German occupation of Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia in 1938 by Neville Chamberlain to prevent ‘War in our time.’ In the Palestine Israel conflict I think the time has come for a unified response through the UN Security Council, with a Resolution in which it appoints an envoy to lead negotiations which lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state within a 2 year time frame. The Resolution will have to include a requirement that the Israeli government immediately releases Marwan Barghouti as the future President for him to lead negotiations with the UN and Israeli government to establish a Palestinian state which will include Gaza. Issues which in my view need to be agreed immediately are the nature of the new state, withdrawal of the Israeli army from Palestine with replacement by a UN peacekeeping force and the Palestinian right to return.
A UN War Crimes Commission for Israel and Palestine needs establishment, with powers to arrest, then when appropriate charge and try individuals accused of any crimes committed in the establishment of the Israeli state up until the present. The crimes committed by the Israeli state and Palestinian authority need to be part of the remit. A Palestinian-Israeli Peace and Reconciliation Committee needs establishment, modelled on the South African experience, chaired by the UN. This Committee will need to have ‘teeth’ to make findings regarding individual and state violence by Israel and Palestine against civilians, with financial compensation to survivors, with referrals to the War Crimes Commission when appropriate. The Committee will need to consider financial compensation for Palestinians choosing not to return whose houses, land and possessions were expropriated by the Israeli state and individuals. A separate committee will have to consider Israel being a nuclear power and like the South African government how to dispose of the weapons they have produced.
The requirements I’ve outlined above are a challenge to Palestinians and Israelis, however in my view they address the continued problems in either side coming up with mutually agreed arrangements for a peaceful resolution of their problems. A main principle of the negotiations will have to be a Resolution to establish a Palestinian state within 2 years. The assumption needs to be that parties will cooperate with the process, however there need to be sanctions against any non-cooperation with immediate UN political and economic sanctions. In the absence of a final agreement the UN Security Council will have to act quickly to implement what in their view is the best option to establish Palestine statehood.
I’m aware that my thoughts are ‘pie in the sky’ and could be overtaken by violence between the parties, exacerbated by the absence of peace talks and an unstable coalition from the Israeli election with a one seat majority. What’s more concerning is that the Jewish Home Party whose members are mainly settlers has obtained the Justice Ministry which will provide it with power over the courts which hear land dispute cases. Additionally the Shas Party which advocates on behalf of Sephardic jews can now block reductions in benefits for its members and there will be continued financial support by the state for their religious schools. I’ve just read an article from the editorial in the Financial Times on 7 May where the view is that western governments are now becoming more critical of Israel. The paper makes a recommendation that those governments with assured places in the UN Security Council take the case for Palestinian statehood there for consideration.
My blog has reached the end now. My own involvement regarding Israel and Palestine will include continuing my membership of the Palestine-UK Social Work Network. I’m now a Palestine Solidarity Campaign member and am thinking of approaching my local branch about a reading group to consider a historiographical approach to Palestine and Israel. I want to campaign for peace and will look to work with independent groups which include Palestinian and Israeli activists with the same aims. Shalom and Salaam.