Israel-Palestine  Infos


Ilan Pappe - opening words, debate May 8, 2007 / translation Adam Keller






Zionism was born out of two logical and justified impulses. The first was the desire to find a safe shore for the Jews of East and Central Europe, after decades of anti-semitic persecutions - and possibly also a premonition that there was worse to come. The second impulse was to redefine the Jewish religion as a national movement, under the influence of "The Spring of the Peoples" in the mid-Nineteenth Century.


When the leaders of the movement decided, for reasons which cannot be detailed here, that the only territory where these two impulses can be fulfilled is Palestine, where nearly a million people already lived - this movement turned into a colonial project.



This colonial project got its definite form after the First World War. Despite getting a wide Imperial umbrella - in the form of the British Mandate - as a colonial project it was not a success story. The settlers succeeded to take over a bare six percent of the Palestinian homeland, and to constitute only a third of the country's population.


The tragedy of the indigenous Palestinian population was not only their being the victims of a colonial movement - but specifically being the victim of a colonial movement which sought to create a democratic movement. In face of the clear Palestinian demographic majority, eleven leaders of Zionism did not hesitate in Mach 1948 to resolve upon ethnic cleansing, as the best means - considering the failures of Zionist colonialism - to create a Jewish, ethnically pure, democracy over most of Palestine's territory.


Within less than a year after the historic decision was taken, the ethnic cleansing was carried out - which nowadays the international community would not have hesitated to call a crime against humanity. Systematically, from village to village and from city to city, the Jewish forces passed and cleansed the country of its indigenous population. They left destruction and ruin in their wake: more than five hundred ruined villages, and eleven towns. Half of Palestine's towns and villages were forcibly emptied and half of the counry’s population (eighty percent of the population of what became the Jewish state) were uprooted from their homes, fields and livelihoods. This crime was retroactively approved by the International Community and remained a legitimized means in the hands of the Jewish state, then as well as now, to ensure the existence of a Jewish democracy on the country's soil. The achievement and maintenance of a demographic majority became a sacred goal, and it became also the basis for the two-state solution to the conflict. The International Community, as well as the Israeli peace camp, sought to limit the territory where ethnic cleansing and the Jewish purity would prevail. The Zionist minotaur demanded - and by force, gained - a full eighty percent of Palestine. But that was not enough: when the historic opportunity arrived to satisfy not only demographic hunger but also territorial greediness, it in 1967 swallowed the whole of Palestine's land.


However, even when the whole country was swallowed, official Israel attempted to preserve also the idea of Zionist democracy. That is how such formulas were born as "Territory in exchange for Peace" and "Two States for Two Peoples". These were not recipes for peace or justice to the two peoples, but attempts to limit an expansionist movement which sought to gain more territory without the Arab population living on it.


There are those who, from 1967 until the present, believe that it is possible to satisfy this hunger to settle and create settlements, to dispossess and rule and stay democratic via the creation of a Palestinian state in twenty percent of the territory. For a short historical moment, in the first years of the occupation, it might have been possible. But already in the 1970s, the situation became more complicated and there were created facts on the ground of Jewish settlement which did not make the desired limitation possible.


A decade later, in the 1980s, the two state mantra has also passed a metamorphosis in face of the changing reality. The Zionist peace camp sought to increase the number of supporters of the idea of limitation and assimilate the settlement facts created on the ground, and therefore it knowingly shrunk the territory of the -state- intended for the Palestinians. The more that the territory shrunk, the connection increasingly disappeared between the Two State formula and the idea of a fair, full and viable solution to the conflict. In the present century, the more that the Two States solution became a common currency and the number of its adherents increased - and the list eventually included Ariel Sharon, Binyamin Netanyahu, George W. Bush and others - the limitation became occupation. When the entire International Community adopted the Two State Solution, the occupation apparatus reaped a double benefit from the new reality.


On the one hand, under the umbrella of a "peace process" settlement was increased and deepened, tyranny and oppression were intensified - without an international criticism or sanctions. On the other hand, the creation of "facts on the ground" further decreased the territory which was supposedly excluded from the Zionist minotaur's hunger. Under the idea of the Two States as a diplomatic international formula, it was generally agreed that the Zionist hunger for as much as half of the West Bank might be satisfied. Later, with the support of the entire Israeli peace camp, the Two State formula led to an inevitable, international support for the imprisoning of the entire Gaza Strip in a modern concentration camp.


The exclusive status given to the Two States formula, inside and outside the country, on the one hand made it possible for the official Israel to transform one form of occupation into another form in order to silence potential criticism of its war crimes - and on the other hand, it made it possible for the Israeli occupation apparatus to create facts on the ground which made the idea of the Palestinian state into a pipedream.


Look at it from whatever angle you choose. If justice be the basis for dividing the country, there can be no formula more cynical than the Two State formula: to the occupier and dispossessor, eighty percent; to the occupied, twenty percent in the best and probably utopian case, and more likely a ten percent which are divided and scattered. Moreover: the return of the refugees, where will it be, where will it be implemented? In the name of justice, the refugees have a right to decide if they could return, and they have the right to participate in defining the future of the entire country, not just of twenty percent.


On the other hand, if pragmatism and real politic are your guiding principles, and all you seek is to satisfy the hunger of the Zionist state for territory and demographic superiority, then let's transfer Wadi Ara to the West Bank, and Hebron to Israel, and trust in the regional and global balance of forces and grant the Palestinians no more than a tiny piece of land, hermetically closed with fences, walls and barriers.


Yes, there are Palestinians in Nazareth and Ramalla who are willing to settle for even that, and they deserve to have their voice heard. But this is not enough, we must not silence the voices of the Palestinian majority in the refugee camps, in the diasporas and exiles, among the internal refugees and in the Occupied Territories, who want to be part of the future of the country which was once theirs. There will be no reconciliation, nor will there be justice here, if these Palestinians will not participate in defining the sovereignty, identity and future of the entire country. Reconciliation will be extended by including recognition of the right of the Jews who settled here by force to have a similar share in defining the future.


Let's give the refugees their share and respect their aspirations to be partners with us in one state. Let's check the practicability of this idea and of the road to it - because for sixty years already we have checked the Two State idea and the result is clear: continuation of exile, occupation, discrimination and dispossession.


It is wrong to propose democratic constitutions for west Beit Safafa, for Bak'ah Al-Garbiya and for eastern Arabeh - while at the same time shrugging off all responsibility for east Beit Safafa, for Bak'ah Al-Sharkiya and for western Arabeh, and saying: - They will be there, behind the Wall, oppressed, with no access to land, rights or resources. As Jewish and Palestinian citizens in this state we have relations of blood, of common fate and common disaster which cannot be 'partitioned'. Such a division is neither moral nor practical.


Our political elites are incompetent at best and corrupt at worst, in all that relates to the conflict in this country. Those who accompany them in the neighboring countries and the wider world are as bad. When these elites masquerade as civil society and float the Geneva bubble, the situation only becomes worse and the prospects of peace move further away. Let us propose an alternative dialogue including the old and new settlers - even those who arrived yesterday - the expelled - of all generations - and the people who were left behind. Let us ask which political structure suits us - one which would involve and include the principles of justice, reconciliation and coexistence. Let us offer them at least one more model except the one which failed. In Bil'in we have struggled shoulder to shoulder against the occupation - we can also live together. Whom would we rather have as our neighbor, the Mattityahu Mizrah settlers or the Na'alin villagers?


And in order for this dialogue to start and grow, let us admit that despite our important efforts, we here with our own forces cannot stop ever-escalating occupation. Because occupation proceeds from the same ideological infrastructure on which the 1948 ethnic cleansing was erected, because of which the army massacred the inhaibitants of Kufr Quassem, because of which the lands of the Galilee, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were confiscated, and in whose name there take place every day detentions and killings without trial. The most murderous manifestation of this ideology is now in the Territories. It should and must be stopped soonest. For that, no expedient which has not yet been tried should be rejected. The appeal of Palestinian civil society for imposing boycotts and sanctions should be heeded. The sincerity should be recognized of the moral pressure exerted by associations of journalists, academics and physicians over the world who seek to sever contacts with official Israel and its representatives, as long as the crimes continue. Let us give this non-violent way a chance to end the occupation. From here and from there, we will call together for the castigation of a government and a state which continues to perpetrate such crimes; Jews and non-Jews, we will be immune from the stain of anti-semitism, unjustly cast at us. From every possible point of view - Socialist, Liberal, Jewish or Buddhist - a decent person cannot but call for the boycotting of a regime and a government which for forty years already are mistreating a civilian population only because it is Arab. And decent Jewish persons must let their voices resound more loudly than those of others calling for action and effort.


Whether or not the South African experience is the source and inspiration for the One State solution and for a justified and moral international boycott, it is unacceptable that this way and this vision remain without a thorough examination, only due to a continued adherence to a failing formula which had ling since become a recipe for disaster.


[based on Ilan Pappe's notes for his opening speech]