22 - 28 August 2002
Issue No. 600
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Recommend this page|
In the beginning is the endBelow is the testimony provided by Samir Amin to the NGO coalition, El Taller, in the context of its initiative to set up a popular international court to investigate Sharon's crimes
Israel is a unique state. No other state has been created under similar conditions and no other state relates to the world system -- all the rules of which it negates -- in remorselessly similar fashion.
Israel as a state is a fabrication of the major Western imperialist powers, of Britain initially and thereafter the US. It is not the creation of Zionism, which was only instrumental in the successive imperialist schemes aimed at controlling the Middle East for its geopolitical position -- as the "road to India", as, first, the southern border of the USSR and, now, central Asia, the plaque tournante to control Russia, China, Iran and India -- and its oil wealth. In this scheme Palestine occupies an exclusive position, separating Egypt from Arab Asia and allowing for control of the Suez Canal.
It was for these reasons, and no other, that Britain chose, during World War I, to instrumentalise Zionism through the Balfour Declaration (1917). That declaration has no legitimacy, the colonial power having neither the moral nor juridical authority to expropriate the rights of indigenous people placed under its protection for the benefit of foreign settlers brought in with its permission.
The British authorities energetically supported the building of a "Jewish state within colonial Palestine", using all the means at their disposal to destroy, by political and police-military terror, the Palestinian liberation movement.
Israel was recognised as an independent state by the UN in May 1948, at a time when very few African and Asian countries were represented in the new international system. Among those that were, the vast majority voted against the partition of Palestine.
The Arabs were ethically correct in rejecting the principle of partition and those Palestinians who struggled for a united Palestinian state that would include new settlers, and respect all communities, were ahead of their time. But whether the rejection of partition was the most efficient choice tactically remains subject to discussion. Certainly, it helped the foreign settlers to present their aggressive, expansionist war as a "defensive" action.
Israel's admission to the UN was subject to normal conditions, ie that states must have recognised international borders. Israel's membership was therefore made pending on that recognition from its government. Such recognition never came. Legally Israel should, therefore, be expelled from the international community.
Israel, though, has not only not been expelled, it has been allowed to turn the positions upside down: it is Israel that does not recognise the legitimacy of UN resolutions, and it is the only state allowed to do so. Israel has refused to accept UN resolutions for more than half a century, yet no sanctions have been applied against it though terrible sanctions, including massive bombing, have been used against other states, often with less reason.
An imperialist US subsequently assumed the "protection of Israel". The 1967 War was planned in Washington during 1965, its aim being to destroy the Nasserist attempt at an independent development. And not only did Israel consistently refuse to withdraw from occupied Palestine and comply with UN resolutions to that effect, it systematically established new settler colonies in the territories. No sanctions have ever been taken in opposition to this expansionist policy. No Western power has ever reduced its financial support to a state that could hardly survive a few weeks without such support.
Yet the Palestinian liberation movement, as represented by the PLO, has made gigantic concessions in order to reach a reasonable peaceful solution, recognising the existence of Israel as a fait accompli.
The Palestinians have accepted that most of their land (and the best of it) will constitute the state of Israel. They signed an agreement stipulating that the Israelis should withdraw from the occupied territories according to a fixed calendar. Not one of the five Israeli governments in power since 1993 has respected the agreements signed in Oslo that same year.
It is said that the then Israeli Prime Minister Barak made a "generous offer" to the Palestinians in Camp David. Nothing could be further from the truth. Barak's offer divided the Palestinian state into four distinct, tiny districts separated by blocs of new settlements, maintained Israel's military occupation along the Jordan River and annexed almost the whole of East Jerusalem. The offer was an unacceptable step back from the Oslo agreement, it remains unacceptable today.
Ariel Sharon is a criminal whose responsibility in the massacre of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatilla has long been established. According to the principles governing the international community he should be arrested and judged by an international criminal court. But Ariel Sharon shares George W Bush's views on almost everything. He has, therefore, been in a position to take advantage of the confusions created by the events of 11 September, 2001, pursuing the reversal of "the peace process" initiated in Madrid and Oslo by reoccupying semi-autonomous Palestinian areas and, in the name of the so-called "war against terrorism", engineering massacres in Jenin, Ramallah, Bethlehem and elsewhere, the target being the Zionist "final solution", ie the removal of Palestinians from Palestine.
Sharon is not embarking on anything new. As already noted, the process of reversing the peace process was initiated by Barak. Israel was founded, and has always expanded, by expropriating Palestinian rights and land and expelling the original owners. Ethnic cleansing lies at the core of its day to day policies and has been actively pursued by Labour governments no less than the right. The policy started early, with the massacres of Deir Yassin (1948), Tantura and other places, followed by the mass expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to whom Israel denies the right of return enshrined in international law. These events took place barely three years from the end of World War II, during which European Jews had been the victims of Nazi barbarism. One conclusion from this sad observation: there is no vaccination that prevents victims from becoming, in their turn, butchers. From Deir Yassin to Jenin the massacre has been continuous.
Israel, it is repeated, is a "democratic state". But what is the meaning of such a democracy if it operates on the basis of apartheid, discriminating not only de facto, but de jure, against Arab Israeli citizens, developing a vision of the Palestinian Authority as an auxiliary police forcing the Palestinians to accept the status of a Bantustan (at best, awaiting their expulsion). Israel is a racist, apartheid state. The mere fact that, in certain circumstances, a majority of its privileged population supports this is no excuse. Many odious systems have been supported by majorities.
The only real issue today is to secure Israel's withdrawal from occupied Palestine, and recognition of the right of return of Palestinians expelled from their homes.
The Bush-Sharon rhetoric has completely loaded the die, focussing on the so called issue of "violence" and "terrorism". Violence and terrorism against what? Israeli occupation, its daily actions, are based on violence and terror. Violence used by Palestinians is a response to this and is, therefore, fully legitimate. Resistance to oppression is one of the fundamental rights of peoples. And if the Israeli occupation army acts outside its boundaries, why should the Palestinians not act inside Israel? Some forms of the Palestinian actions may well be subject to discussion, particularly from the point of view of efficiency. But in no way can the violence of the oppressed and that of the oppressor be placed on the same footing. To call on both sides to halt the violence without calling for the prior evacuation of the Israeli army is simply to align oneself with the Bush-Sharon strategy.
Asian and African peoples naturally understand what is at stake in Palestine. Colonialism, white settlers, racism, apartheid -- that Israel was a very good friend of the apartheid regime is hardly a coincidence -- are part and parcel of their shared history. It is, therefore, in Asia and Africa that support for the Palestinian struggle for liberation unifies. When the 77 and the Non-Aligned (the Third World countries) condemned Zionism as racism in the UN General Assembly they expressed a correct qualification of the official ideology of a "white settler" colonial state.
There appear to be two reasons why this is not the case in Europe. The G7 or the "Triad" (USA- Canada, Europe, Japan) share a common "collective imperialist" vision of their relations to the peoples of the South. This applies to governments belonging to the "left", in electoral terminology, as well as to the "right". Both support of what they believe are the requirements of neo-liberal globalisation (ie the defence of the interests of dominant transnational capital). They share what they believe are the same strategic interests, among which "control" of the Middle East must count, they accept the leadership of the US in this respect and therefore consider Israel as a useful ally in the enterprise.
This attitude, prevalent in the ruling establishments of the G7, is far more important in explaining the attitude of these governments towards the Palestinian question than the weight so often attributed to the "Jewish lobby" (which should always be labelled Zionist, since many people classified as "Jews" are not supporters of Zionism). Should the G7 develop another vision of their relations to the South support for Israel would disappear overnight, whatever the Zionist lobby decides to do.
The second reason for confusion on the Palestinian issue is rooted in European history. Anti- Semitism, which led to the crimes of the Nazis, is a European phenomenon, and it produced Zionism as a reaction to it. Whether this reaction -- which is at least understandable -- was the best response to the challenge is questionable. But what cannot be questioned is that the full responsibility for this tragic history must be born by European peoples. If an Israeli state had to be created as a solution to the question it should have been located somewhere in Europe. The Palestinian people had no responsibility for Europe's anti-Semitism. Yet the Europeans find it normal to expiate their faults at the expense of others and moreover use Zionism as an instrument for their own imperialist schemes. European (and North American) democrats have to understand that this attitude is not acceptable.
Zionist propaganda has proven itself efficient in exploiting the bad conscience of Europeans. The "holocaust industry", so well analysed and denounced by Norman Finkelstein, shows how it works.
Maybe one should add to these two explanations the natural sympathy felt towards Zionist colonisation by a state, the US, built on the extermination of native peoples by white settlers. Yet if the US establishment did not perceive any strategic interest in their alliance with Israel such natural sympathy would be unlikely to have much effect. The US establishment has always been cynical enough to choose its arguments. One need only remember that in 1956 Eisenhower sided with Egypt, and against Israel, largely to eliminate British and French influence from the Middle East.
Could Israel itself change? Could it accept a historical perspective other than being the spearhead of Western imperialism?
This could be the subject for an interesting historical debate. I remember Jews being welcomed in Egypt, refugees during World War II escaping from the horrors of the Nazis. If these people are unjustly rejected by the nations among whom they lived and if they wish to return to the East from which they originated, then welcome. A million Jews in Palestine, why not? That seemed to be the attitude of the day. Unfortunately, upon reaching Palestine, organised and controlled by the Zionist establishment, they were taught to behave as white settlers. And they generally did.
Now that the Palestinians accept the state of Israel, what if the Israelis, in turn, accepted a Palestinian state? Even if such acceptance required international action, could this new conjunction create the possibility for another evolution in the relations between the two peoples ? I believe this is so.
But nothing of this kind can happen unless Israel first withdraws from all the territories it has occupied in Palestine since 1967. And this the only objective towards which democratic forces, in the world and in Israel, should mobilise.
Letter from the Editor
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