SINCE I witnessed the rise of the Nazis during my childhood in Germany, my nose always tickles when it smells something fascist, even when the odor is still faint.
When the debate about the “one-state solution” began, my nose tickled.
Have you gone mad, I told my nose, this time you are dead wrong. This is a plan of the Left. It is being put forward by leftists of undoubted credentials, the greatest idealists in Israel and abroad, even certified Marxists.
But my nose insisted. It continued to tickle.
Now it appears that the nose was right, after all.
THIS IS not the first time that a kosher leftist plan leads towards extreme rightist consequences.
That happened, for example, to the ugliest symbol of the occupation: the Separation Wall. It was invented by the Left.
When the “terrorist” attacks multiplied, leftist politicians, headed by Haim Ramon, offered a miracle-solution to the problem: an impassable obstacle between Israel and the occupied territories. They argued that it would stop the attacks without recourse to brutal actions in the West Bank.
The Right opposed the idea vehemently. To them it was a conspiracy to fix the borders of the state and promote the two-state solution, which they saw (and still see) as an existential threat to their designs.
But suddenly the Right changed its tune. They realized that the wall offered a wonderful opportunity to annex large tracts of West Bank land and turn them over to the settlers. And that is what happened: the wall/fence was not put up along the Green Line, but cuts deep into the West Bank. It takes away large areas of land from the Palestinian villages.
Nowadays leftists are demonstrating every week against the wall, the right is sending soldiers to shoot at them, and the two-state solution has been set back.
NOW THE rightists have discovered the one-state solution. My nose is tickling.
One of the first was Moshe Arens, former Minister of Defense. Arens is an extreme rightist, a fanatical Likud member. He started to talk about one state from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, in which the Palestinians would be granted full rights, including citizenship and the vote.
I rubbed my eyes. Is this the same Arens? What has happened to him? But this apparent mystery has a simple solution.
Arens and his companions are faced with a mathematical problem that seems insoluble: turning the triangle into a circle.
Their aim has three sides: (a) a Jewish state, (b) the whole of Eretz Israel, and (c) democracy. How to combine these three sides into one harmonious circle?
Between the sea and the river there now live about 6.5 million Jews and 3.9 million Palestinians – a proportion of 59% Jews to 41% Palestinians (including the inhabitants of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Arab citizens of Israel.) This number does not include, of course, the millions of Palestinian refugees who are living outside the country.)
Several “experts” have tried to dispute these numbers, but respected statisticians, including Israelis, accept them with tiny changes here and there.
The proportion, alas, is rapidly changing in favor of the Palestinians. The Palestinian population is doubling every 18 years. Even taking into account the natural increase of the Jewish population in Israel and the potential immigration in the foreseeable future, one can predict with almost mathematical precision when the Palestinians will constitute the majority between the Jordan and the sea. It’s a matter of years rather than decades.
The inescapable conclusion: one can reconcile between any two of the three aspirations, but not all three at once: (a) a Jewish state in the entire country cannot be democratic, (b) a democratic state in the entire country cannot be Jewish, and (c) a Jewish and democratic state cannot include the entire Eretz Israel.
Simple. Logical. One does not have to be Moshe Arens, an engineer by profession, to see this.
Therefore the Right is looking for another logic that would allow the creation of a Jewish and democratic state in the entire country.
LAST WEEK Haaretz published a stunning sensation: prominent personalities of the extreme Right – indeed, some of the most extreme – accept the solution of one-state from the sea to the river. They speak about a state in which the Palestinians will be full citizens.
The rightists quoted in Noam Sheizaf’s article do not hide their reasons for adopting this line: they want to obstruct the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, which would mean the end of the settlement enterprise and the evacuation of scores of settlements and outposts throughout the West Bank. They also want to put an end to the growing international pressure for the two-state solution.
Among some leftists in the world, who advocate the one-state solution, the news was greeted with great joy. They pour scorn on the Israeli peace camp (leftists enjoy nothing more than deriding other leftists) and heap praise on the Israeli Right. What magnanimity! What readiness to break out of the box and adopt their opponents’ ideals! Only the Right will make peace!
But if these good people would read the texts, they would discover that it ain’t necessarily so. To be precise, it’s the very opposite.
ALL OF the six rightists quoted in the article are united on a number of points which deserve consideration.
First: all of them exclude the Gaza Strip from the proposed solution. Gaza will no longer be a part of the country. Thus, the number of Palestinians will be reduced by 1.5 million, improving the menacing demographic balance. (True, in the Oslo agreement, Israel recognized the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as one integral territory, but the rightists consider the Oslo agreement anyhow as the tainted product of leftist traitors.)
Second: the one state will, of course, be a Jewish state.
Third: the annexation of the West Bank will take place at once, so that the building of settlements can go on undisturbed. In a Greater Israel, the settlement enterprise cannot be limited.
Fourth: There is no way to grant citizenship to all Palestinian forthwith.
The author of the article summarizes their positions thus: “a process that will take from about a decade to a generation, and at its conclusion the Palestinians will enjoy full personal rights, but the state will remain, in its symbols and spirit, Jewish…This is not a vision of ‘a state belonging to all its citizens’ and not ‘Isratine’ with a flag combining the crescent and the Star of David. The one state still means Jewish sovereignty.”
IT IS worthwhile to listen well to the explanations provided by the initiators themselves (emphasis added by me):
Uri Elitsur, former director general of the Judea and Samaria Council (the leadership of the settlers, known as “Yesha”): “I speak of a Jewish state which is the state of the Jewish people, and in which there will exist an Arab minority.”
Hanan Porat, a founder of Gush Emunim (the religious settlers’ leadership, and the man who called upon the Jews to rejoice after the Baruch Goldstein massacre in Hebron): “I am against the automatic citizenship proposed by Uri Elitsur, which is naïve and could lead to grievous consequences. I propose the application of Israeli law to the territories in stages, first in the areas in which there is (already) a Jewish majority, and within a time-span of a decade to a generation in all the territories.”
Porat proposes dividing the Palestinians into three categories: (a) Those who want an Arab state and are ready to realize this by terrorism and struggle against the state – they have no place in Eretz Israel. Meaning: they will be expelled. (b) Those resigned to their place and to Jewish sovereignty, but not ready to take part in the state and fulfill all their obligations towards it – they will have full human rights, but no political representation in the institutions of the state. (c) Those who declare that they will be loyal to the state and swear allegiance to it – they will be granted full citizenship. (They will, of course, be a small minority.)
Tzipi Hutubeli, a Member of Parliament on the extreme fringe of Likud: “On the political horizon there must be citizenship for the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria…That will happen gradually …This process must take place over a long time, perhaps even a generation, in the course of which the situation on the ground will be stabilized and the symbols of the Jewish state and its character will be anchored in law…The question mark hovering over Judea and Samaria will be removed…First comes my deep belief in our right over Eretz Israel. Shiloh and Bet-El (in the West Bank) are for me the land of our ancestors in the full meaning of the term…At this moment we speak about conferring citizenship in Judea and Samaria, not in Gaza. Let it be clear: I do not recognize political rights of Palestinians over Eretz Israel…Between the sea and the Jordan there is room for one state, a Jewish state.”
Moshe Arens: “The integration of the Arab population (inside Israel) into Israeli society is a prior condition, and only afterwards can one speak about citizenship for Palestinians in the territories.” Meaning: Arens proposes focusing on the integration of the Arab citizens of Israel – something that has not happened in the last 62 years – and only afterwards thinking about the question of citizenship for the West Bank population.
Emily Amrussi, a settler who organizes meetings between the settlers and the Palestinians of the neighboring villages: “Don’t describe me as one pushing for the ‘one state’. In the end we may arrive there, but we are still very far from there. Let’s talk first about one country…We don’t talk about citizenship, but in terms like relations between neighbors… First let them become my good neighbors, and then we shall give them rights…In the far future, it will be necessary to move towards citizenship for everybody.”
Reuven Rivlin, Speaker of the Knesset: “The country cannot be divided…I oppose the idea of a state belonging to all its citizens or a bi-national state and am thinking about arrangements of joint sovereignty in Judea and Samaria under the Jewish state, even a regime of two parliaments, Jewish and Arab…Judea and Samaria will be a co-dominion, held jointly…But these are things that take time…Stop waving demography in my face.”
THE REGIME described here is not an apartheid state, but something much worse: a Jewish state in which the Jewish majority will decide if at all, and when, to confer citizenship on some of the Arabs. The words that come up again and again - “perhaps within a generation” - are by nature very imprecise, and not by accident.
But most important: there is a thunderous silence about the mother of all questions: what will happen when the Palestinians become the majority in the One State? That is not a question of “if”, but of “when”: there is not the slightest doubt that this will happen, not “within a generation”, but long before.
This thunderous silence speaks for itself. People who do not know Israel may believe that the rightists are ready to accept such a situation. Only a very naive person can expect a repetition of what happened in South Africa, when the whites (a small minority) handed power over to the blacks (the large majority) without bloodshed.
We said above that it is impossible to “turn the triangle into a circle”. But the truth is that there is one way: ethnic cleansing. The Jewish state can fill all the space between the sea and the Jordan and still be democratic – if there are no Palestinians there.
Ethnic cleansing can be carried out dramatically (as in this country in 1948 and in Kosovo in 1998) or in a quiet and systematic way, by dozens of sophisticated methods, as is happening now in East Jerusalem. But there cannot be the slightest doubt that this is the final stage of the one-state vision of the rightists. The first stage will be an effort to fill the entire country with settlements, and to demolish any chance of implementing the two-state solution, which is the only realistic basis for peace.
In Roman Polanski’s movie “Rosemary’s Baby”, a nice young woman gives birth to a nice baby, which turns out to be the son of Satan. The attractive leftist vision of the one-state solution may grow up into a rightist monster.
WHEN I was first elected to the Knesset, I was appalled at what I found. I discovered that, with rare exceptions, the intellectual level of the debates was close to zero. They consisted mainly of strings of clichés of the most commonplace variety. During most of the debates, the plenum was almost empty. Most participants spoke vulgar Hebrew. When voting, many members had no idea what they were voting for or against, they just followed the party whip.
That was 1967, when the Knesset included members like Levy Eshkol and Pinchas Sapir, David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan, Menachem Begin and Yohanan Bader, Meir Yaari and Yaakov Chazan, for whom today streets, highroads and neighborhoods are named.
In comparison to the present Knesset, that Knesset now looks like Plato’s Academy.
WHAT FRIGHTENED me more than anything else was the readiness of members to enact irresponsible laws for the sake of fleeting popularity, especially at times of mass hysteria. One of my first Knesset initiatives was to submit a bill which would have created a second chamber, a kind of Senate, composed of outstanding personalities, with the power to hold up the enactment of new laws and compel the Knesset to reconsider them after an interval. This, I hoped, would prevent laws being hastily adopted in an atmosphere of excitement.
The bill was not considered seriously, neither by the Knesset nor by the general public. The Knesset almost unanimously voted it down. (After some years, several of the members told me that they regretted their vote.) The newspapers nicknamed the proposed chamber “the House of Lords” and ridiculed it. Haaretz devoted a whole page of cartoons to the proposal, depicting me in the garb of a British peer.
So there is no brake. The production of irresponsible laws, most of them racist and anti-democratic, is booming. The more the government itself is turning into an assembly of political hacks, the more the likelihood of its preventing such legislation is diminishing. The present government, the largest, basest and most despised in Israel’s history, is cooperating with the Knesset members who submit such bills, and even initiating them itself.
The only remaining obstacle to this recklessness is the Supreme Court. In the absence of a written constitution, it has taken upon itself the power to annul scandalous laws that violate democracy and human rights. But the Supreme Court itself is beleaguered by rightists who want to destroy it, and is moving with great caution. It intervenes only in the most extreme cases.
Thus a paradoxical situation has arisen: parliament, the highest expression of democracy, is itself now posing a dire threat to Israeli democracy.
THE MAN who personifies this phenomenon more than anyone else is MK Michael Ben-Ari of the “National Union” faction, the heir of Meir Kahane, whose organization “Kach” (“Thus”) was outlawed many years ago because of its openly fascist character.
Kahane himself was elected to the Knesset only once. The reaction of the other members was unequivocal: whenever he rose to speak, almost all the other members left the hall. The rabbi had to make his speeches before a handful of ultra-right colleagues.
A few weeks ago I visited the present Knesset for the first time since its election. I went there to listen to a debate about a subject that concerns me too: the decision of the Palestinian Authority to boycott the products of the settlements, a dozen years after Gush Shalom started this boycott. I spent some hours in the building, and from hour to hour my revulsion deepened.
The main cause was a circumstance I had not been aware of: MK Ben-Ari, the disciple and admirer of Kahane, holds sway there. Not only is he not an isolated outsider on the fringe of parliamentary life, as his mentor had been, but on the contrary, he is at the center. I saw the members of almost all other factions crowding around him in the members’ cafeteria and listening to his perorations with rapt attention in the plenum. No doubt can remain that Kahanism – the Israeli version of fascism – has moved from the margin to center stage.
Recently, the country witnessed a scene that looked like something from the parliament of South Korea or Japan.
On the Knesset speaker’s rostrum stood MK Haneen Zoabi of the Arab nationalist Balad faction and tried to explain why she had joined the Gaza aid flotilla that had been attacked by the Israeli navy. MK Anastasia Michaeli, a member of the Lieberman party, jumped from her seat and rushed to the rostrum, letting out blood-curdling shrieks, waving her arms, in order to remove Haneen Zoabi by force. Other members rose from their seats to help Michaeli. Near the speaker, a threatening crowd of Knesset members gathered. Only with great difficulty did the ushers succeed in saving Zoabi from bodily harm. One of the male members shouted at her, in a typical mixture of racism and sexism: “Go to Gaza and see what they will do to a 41 year old unmarried woman!”
One could not imagine a greater contrast than that between the two MKs. While Haneen Zoabi belongs to a family whose roots in the Nazareth area go back centuries, perhaps to the time of Jesus, Anastasia Michaeli was born in (then) Leningrad. She was elected “Miss St. Petersburg” and then became a fashion model, married an Israeli, converted to Judaism, immigrated to Israel at age 24 but sticks to her very Russian first name. She has given birth to eight children. She may be a candidate for the Israeli Sarah Palin, who, after all, was also once a beauty queen..
As far as I could make out, not a single Jewish member raised a finger to defend Zoabi during the tumult. Nothing but some half-hearted protest from the Speaker, Reuven Rivlin, and a Meretz member, Chaim Oron.
In all the 61 years of its existence, the Knesset had not seen such a sight. Within a minute the sovereign assembly turned into a parliamentary lynch mob.
One does not have to support the ideology of Balad to respect the impressive personality of Haneen Zoabi. She speaks fluently and persuasively, has degrees from two Israeli universities, fights for the rights of women within the Israeli-Arab community and is the first female member of an Arab party in the Knesset. Israeli democracy could be proud of her. She belongs to a large Arab extended family. The brother of her grandfather was the mayor of Nazareth, one uncle was a deputy minister and another a Supreme Court judge. (Indeed, on my first day in the Knesset I proposed that another member of the Zoabi family be elected as Speaker.)
This week, the Knesset decided by a large majority to adopt a proposal by Michael Ben-Ari, supported by Likud and Kadima members, to strip Haneen Zoabi of her parliamentary privileges. Even before, Interior Minister Eli Yishai had asked the Legal Advisor to the Government for approval of his plan to strip Zoabi of her Israeli citizenship on the grounds of treason. One of the Knesset members shouted at her: “You have no place in the Israeli Knesset! You have no right to hold an Israeli identity card!”
On the very same day, the Knesset took action against the founder of Zoabi’s party, Azmi Bishara. In a preliminary hearing, it approved a bill – this one, too, supported by both Likud and Kadima members – aimed at denying Bishara his pension, which is due after his resignation from the Knesset. (He is staying abroad, after being threatened with an indictment for espionage.)
The proud parents of these initiatives, which enjoy massive support from Likud, Kadima, Lieberman’s party and all the religious factions, do not hide their intention to expel all the Arabs from parliament and establish at long last a pure Jewish Knesset. The latest decisions of the Knesset are but parts of a prolonged campaign, which gives birth almost every week to new initiatives from publicity-hungry members, who know that the more racist and anti-democratic their bills are, the more popular they will be with their electorate.
Such was this weeks Knesset decision to condition the acquisition of citizenship on the candidate’s swearing allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state”, thus demanding that Arabs (especially foreign Arab spouses of Arab citizens) subscribe to the Zionist ideology. The equivalent would be the demand that new American citizens swear allegiance to the USA as a “white Anglo-Saxon protestant state”.
There seems to be no limit to this parliamentary irresponsibility. All red lines have been crossed long ago. This does not concern only the parliamentary representation of more than 20% of Israel’s citizens, but there is a growing tendency towards depriving all Arab citizens of their citizenship altogether.
THIS TENDENCY is connected with the ongoing attack on the status of the Arabs in East Jerusalem.
This week I was present at the hearing in Jerusalem’s magistrates court on the detention of Muhammed Abu Ter, one of the four Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament from Jerusalem. The hearing was held in a tiny room, which can seat only about a dozen spectators. I succeeded only with great difficulty in getting in.
After they were elected in democratic elections, in conformity with Israel’s explicit obligation under the Oslo agreement to allow the Arabs in East Jerusalem to take part, the government announced that their “permanent resident” status had been revoked.
What does that mean? When Israel “annexed” East Jerusalem in 1967, the government did not dream of conferring citizenship on the inhabitants, which would have significantly increased the percentage of Arab voters in Israel. Neither did they invent a new status for them. Lacking other alternatives, the inhabitants became “permanent residents”, a status devised for foreigners who wish to stay in Israel. The Minister of the Interior has the right to revoke this status and deport such people to their countries of origin.
Clearly, this definition of “permanent residents” should not apply to the inhabitants of East Jerusalem. They and their forefathers were born there, they have no other citizenship and no other place of residence. The revoking of their status turns them into politically homeless people without protection of any kind.
The state lawyers argued in court that with the cancellation of his “permanent resident” status, Abu Ter has become an “illegal person” whose refusal to leave the city warrants unlimited detention.
(A few hours earlier, the Supreme Court dealt with our petition concerning the investigation of the Gaza flotilla incident. We won a partial, but significant, victory: for the first time in its history, the Supreme Court agreed to interfere in a matter concerning a commission of inquiry. The court decided that if the commission requires the testimony of military officers and the government tries to prevent this, the court will intervene.)
IF SOME people are trying to delude themselves into believing that the parliamentary mob will harm “only Arabs”, they are vastly mistaken. The only question is: who is next in line?
This week, the Knesset gave the first reading to a bill to impose heavy penalties on any Israeli who advocates a boycott on Israel, in general, and on economic enterprises, universities and other Israeli institutions, including settlements, in particular. Any such institution will be entitled to an indemnity of 5000 dollars from every supporter of the boycott.
A call for boycott is a democratic means of expression. I object very much to a general boycott on Israel, but (following Voltaire) am ready to fight for everybody’s right to call for such a boycott. The real aim of the bill is, of course, to protect the settlements: it is designed to deter those who call for a boycott of the products of the settlements which exist on occupied land outside the borders of the state. This includes me and my friends.
Since the foundation of Israel, it has never stopped boasting of being the “Only Democracy in the Middle East”. This is the jewel in the crown of Israeli propaganda. The Knesset is the symbol of this democracy.
It seems that the parliamentary mob, which has taken over the Knesset, is determined to destroy this image once and for all, so that Israel will find its proper place somewhere between Libya, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
The New Statesman
Behind the Pentagon’s façade of honourable motives for invading other countries lies a history of promoting violence and covering up atrocities with wars of misinformation. Next stops: Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea.
Washington: The TV anchorwoman was conducting a split-screen interview with a journalist who had volunteered to be a witness at the execution of a man on death row in Utah for 25 years. "He had a choice," said the journalist, "lethal injection or firing squad." "Wow!" said the anchorwoman. Cue a blizzard of commercials for fast food, tooth whitener, stomach stapling, the new Cadillac. This was followed by a reporter in Afghanistan sweating in a flak jacket. "Hey, it's hot," he said on the split screen. "Take care," said the anchorwoman. "Coming up" was a reality show in which the camera watched a man serving solitary confinement in a prison's "hell hole".
The next morning I arrived at the Pentagon for an interview with one of President Barack Obama's senior war-making officials. There was a long walk along shiny corridors hung with pictures of generals and admirals festooned in ribbons. The interview room was purpose-built. It was blue, ice cold, windowless and featureless except for a flag and two chairs: props to create the illusion of a place of authority. The last time I was in a similar room at the Pentagon, a colonel called Hum stopped my interview with another war-making official when I asked why so many innocent civilians were being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then it was in the thousands; now it is more than a million. "Stop tape!" he had ordered.
This time there was no Colonel Hum, merely a polite dismissal of soldiers' testimony that it was a "common occurrence" that troops were ordered to "kill every motherfucker". The Pentagon, says the Associated Press, spent $4.7bn in 2009 alone on public relations: that is, winning the hearts and minds not of recalcitrant Afghan tribesmen, but of Americans. This is known as "information dominance" and PR people are "information warriors".
American imperial power flows through a media culture to which the word imperial is anathema. Colonial campaigns are really "wars of perception", wrote the present commander, General David Petraeus, in which the media popularise the terms and conditions. "Narrative" is the accredited word because it is postmodern and bereft of context and truth. The narrative of Iraq is that the war is won, and the narrative of Afghanistan is that it is a "good war". That neither is true is beside the point. They promote a "grand narrative" of a constant threat and the need for permanent war. "We are living in a world of cascading and intertwined threats," wrote the celebrated New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, "that have the potential to turn our country upside down at any moment."
Friedman supports an attack on Iran, whose independence is intolerable. This is the psychopathic vanity of great power that Martin Luther King described as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world". He was then shot dead.
The psychopathic is applauded across popular, corporate culture, from the TV death watch of a man choosing a firing squad over lethal injection to the Oscar-winning Hurt Locker and a new acclaimed war documentary, Restrepo. The directors of both films deny and dignify the violence of invasion as "apolitical". And yet, behind the cartoon façade is serious purpose. The US is engaged militarily in 75 countries. There are said to be as many as 900 US military bases across the world, many at the gateways to the sources of fossil fuels.
But there is a problem. Most Americans are opposed to these wars and to the billions of dollars spent on them. That their brainwashing so often fails is America's greatest virtue. This is frequently due to courageous mavericks, especially those who emerge from the centrifuge of power. In 1971, the military analyst Daniel Ellsberg leaked documents known as the Pentagon Papers, which put the lie to almost everything two presidents had claimed about Vietnam. Many of these insiders are not even renegades. I have a section in my address book filled with the names of former CIA officers who have spoken out. They have no equivalent in Britain.
Melvin Goodman is now a scholar at Johns Hopkins University in Washington. He was in the CIA for more than 40 years and rose to be a senior Soviet analyst. When we met the other day, he described the conduct of the cold war as a series of gross exaggerations of Soviet "aggressiveness" that wilfully ignored the intelligence that the Soviets were committed to avoid nuclear war at all costs. Declassified official files on both sides of the Atlantic support this view. "What mattered to the hardliners in Washington," Goodman said, "was how a perceived threat could be exploited." The present secretary of defence, Robert Gates, as deputy director of the CIA in the 1980s, was one of those who had hyped the "Soviet menace" and is, says Goodman, doing the same today "on Afghanistan, North Korea and Iran".
Little has changed. In America, in 1939, W H Auden wrote:
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives [. . .]
Out of the mirror they stare,
And the international wrong