Israeli chutzpah over the Temple Mount, Western Wall

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
Dome of the Rock on Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. Photo: Kristoffer Trolle

You would think from the Israeli reactions (even, surprisingly, from Haaretz) that the title of the UNESCO resolution passed on Thursday was, “There Was Never Any Jewish Temple In the First Place.” Haaretz’s headline said the agency was guilty of “nullifying Jewish ties to Temple Mount.” Isaac Herzog said UNESCO was “completely invent[ing] the fantasy that the Western Wall and Temple Mount have no connection to the Jewish people.” You can imagine what Netanyahu and the right wing were saying.

This is Israeli propaganda that I’m sorry Haaretz fell for. (I don’t expect any better from Herzog.)

The resolution, put forward by the Palestinians and six Muslim countries, protests Israel’s actions in and around the Temple Mount and against Muslims praying or seeking to pray there. (Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock stand on the site.)

No mention of these complaints, however, is made in Israel. The only thing in the resolution that got noticed here was that it referred to the Temple Mount, which is what Jews and Christians call the place, only as “Al-Haram al-Sharif” – the “Noble Sanctuary,” which is what Muslims call it. (The measure also referred to the Western Wall as “Al-Buraq Plaza” followed by the words “Western Wall Plaza,” but with the latter in quotation marks, which also pissed Israelis off.)

I don’t know if all the claims made in the UNESCO resolution are true. I don’t know if, as claimed, Israel is blocking Muslim restoration projects or harming Muslim interests with its own earth-moving work. One thing I do not believe is that the State of Israel is deliberately “endangering Al-Aqsa,” as Palestinians and other Muslims are convinced. Moreover, the common Muslim dismissal of Jewish roots at the holy site is a deep insult to Jews, and speaks very badly for popular Muslim attitudes.

But while Palestinian and Muslim notions about the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif are a problem, it’s quite a display of blind arrogance for Israeli Jews to insist that Muslims include the Jewish name for the site in a complaint about Israel’s rule over it, and that if they don’t, they’re guilty of, effectively, anti-Semitism. (Incidentally, the resolution “affirm[s] the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions …”)

I say “blind arrogance” because only the most fastidiously even-handed Israeli Jew ever refers to that site as anything but the Temple Mount. It’s safe to say that most Jews are unfamiliar with the name “Haram al-Sharif.” An even greater majority draw a blank on “Al-Buraq Plaza.”

Should they be accused of “nullifying Muslim ties to Haram al-Sharif”? Does speaking only of the Temple Mount make them, in effect, Islamophobes?

Western Wall Plaza/Al Buraq Square.
Western Wall Plaza/Al Buraq Square.

Also, the Israeli reaction is quite a display of colonial hauteur given that the Jewish state is the ruler over the holy site, that Israeli cops are stationed in the general area of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, that Israel determines who can go there to pray and who can’t, and that it blocks Palestinians in the West Bank from getting not only to Al-Aqsa but to any part of Jerusalem.

Finally, it’s incredible chutzpah for Israelis to insist that the resolution’s Muslim sponsors mention the Temple Mount and the Western Wall (and the latter without the insolent quotation marks, thank you) – when Israel has deliberately erased the names, and often the actual physical presence, of so many Muslim holy sites over the decades.

Israelis don’t forget how Jordan desecrated Jewish holy places in Jerusalem when the Old City fell under the kingdom’s control after the 1948 war. Yet in May 2001, historian Benny Morris (evidently before he swung so sharply to the right) told me in an interview:

“What the Jordanians did to the synagogues in the Old City of Jerusalem pales in comparison to what Israel did to many more mosques all over the country.”

Mosques stood in about half of the 400-plus Arab villages that Israel destroyed during and after the 1948 War of Independence, and except for a few isolated instances, the mosques were destroyed with everything else, Morris said. Another “several dozen” mosques were demolished in cities where Arabs fled or were forced out, such as Jaffa and Ashkelon, he added.

In some cases, mosques were left standing and repurposed, so to speak, by Israel. For instance, Morris said, the mosque in the prewar Arab village of Zakariyya was turned into a fuel storage dump in the postwar Jewish village of Zecharia. He noted:

“If this had been done to a Jewish synagogue, we would call it desecration.”

And in the decades since 1948, as I was told by Meron Benvenisti, author of “Sacred Landscape – The Buried History of the Holy Land since 1948” and one-time deputy mayor of Jerusalem, “A great many Muslim burial sites were turned into the graves of Jewish saints.”

So I ask myself: If I were a Palestinian Muslim, and all this was my history, and now I was barred from going to Jerusalem, or at best I had to pass through an Israeli police cordon to pray at Al-Aqsa, and there was of course no way in hell Israel would let me visit Al-Buraq Square, and I wasn’t hearing Jews using the names “Al Buraq” or “Haram al-Sharif” – would I make sure to mention the name “Temple Mount”? Would I be careful to take out the quotation marks when I mentioned the name “Western Wall”?

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Further reading:

“Full text of new UNESCO resolution on ‘Occupied Palestine,'” Times of Israel, October 13, 2016.

“UNESCO backs motion nullifying Jewish ties to Temple Mount,” Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury, Haaretz, October 13, 2016.

“Where are the mosques of 1948?” Larry Derfner, Jerusalem Post, May 18, 2001.

Message to Jill Stein and her supporters: ‘Lunatics, get down off the roof!’

Jill Stein at Occupy Wall Street, September 27, 2011.
Jill Stein at Occupy Wall Street, September 27, 2011.

Toward the end of the 2000 U.S. presidential election campaign, when George W. Bush and Al Gore were running neck and neck, an ad hoc group calling themselves “Nader’s Raiders for Gore” asked their former candidate of choice, the Green Party’s Ralph Nader, to withdraw from the race. “It is now clear that you might well give the White House to Bush. … We urge you to ask your supporters, as we do now, to honor your ideas and to vote for the man who is most likely to put them into action – Al Gore,” read their open letter.

But it did no good; Bush won the election by 537 votes in Florida, where nearly 100,000 votes were cast for Nader. Diehard Naderites still refuse to take responsibility, blaming the Supreme Court and pointing out that there were a lot more Democrats who didn’t vote, or who voted for Bush, than there were who voted for Nader. Fine. The Supreme Court was to blame. And the Democrats who didn’t vote, or who voted for Bush, were to blame. AND the 97,421 Floridians who voted for Nader were to blame.

But what makes the Nader voters (or anyway the huge chunk of them who knew in their hearts that Gore was the better choice than Bush) more galling than these other culprits is precisely that: They knew that by voting for the candidate they considered the best, even though he had no chance of winning, they risked actually electing the one they considered the worst. Which is what they did.

This brings me, naturally, to Jill Stein, the Green Party’s candidate in the current presidential campaign. With less than two months to go before the election, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump aren’t running as closely as Bush and Gore did, but that’s the direction they’re headed. Clinton’s lead is narrowing by the day. On Friday, the benchmark RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Clinton ahead in the popular vote by 1.1% over Trump in the four-way race that includes the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson and Stein.

The Stein effect 

But what counts, of course, is the winner-take-all statewide contests for electoral votes, with 270 needed to win – and here the RCP average of polls shows Clinton leading Trump 200 to 164 in the states where one or the other has a clear lead. Among the “toss-up” states, there are four – Florida (29 electoral votes), Ohio (18), Georgia (16) and Nevada (6) – in which Trump is leading Clinton by tiny percentages that are smaller than the percentages supporting Stein. In Arizona (11), Trump’s percentage lead and Stein’s percentage of support are the same – 2.2%.

In North Carolina (15), RCP showed no poll results for Stein, but Clinton’s lead there is only 0.6%.

Stein’s name is on the ballot in 45 states including Washington DC, and in three other states her name can be written in. Here’s my proposal (and I’m sure it’s not just mine): She doesn’t have to drop out of the race nationally, she just has to drop out in the “battleground states” mentioned above (and any others that turn into battleground states) where her candidacy could mean the difference between Clinton and Trump winning the state and, very possibly, the White House. And in those battleground states, she has to throw her support to Hillary.

Ralph Nader on campaign trail in 2008.
Ralph Nader, independent candidate for president in 2008, speaking at campaign stop in Waterbury, Connecticut. Photo: Sage Ross

If Stein doesn’t do that, and if she and her supporters end up nuking this election like Nader and the Greens did the one in 2000, it will be so much more of a malicious act than the one before. Sixteen years ago, 9/11 hadn’t happened yet, there was no war in Iraq, no “war on terror.” Plus, Bush was running as a moderate Republican, a “compassionate conservative,” so it wasn’t entirely irrational to think that the difference between him and Gore wasn’t so tremendous, and to see that election as an opportune one to vote for “the best,” as Naderites saw their man, even if he couldn’t win.

But today, between Clinton and Trump? I’m not going to go into the differences between them, or how large they are, or how much larger they are than the ones between Bush and Gore in 2000; it’s not a serious subject.

One other thing I don’t get about Stein’s supporters is why they would risk a Trump victory for the sake of voting for a third party. What have third parties accomplished in modern America except to distort a presidential election or two? What was the lasting effect of George Wallace’s third party? Or John Anderson’s? Or Ross Perot’s? Or Ralph Nader’s? Zero. After the election’s over these parties have nothing to do; their causes may continue, but they’re pushed forward by other movements. A third party exists to run a glorious, hopeless electoral campaign, and that’s it. America has a two-party system, plain and simple, and third parties have no useful place in it.

The horror

In July, Stein told Truthdig.com, “I will be horrified if Donald Trump is elected. And I will be horrified if Hillary Clinton is elected. And I think the greatest terror of all is that we have a political system that says to us, here are two deadly choices: Now pick one.” But that was before, when people on the Left didn’t take seriously the possibility of Trump getting elected president. Everybody takes it seriously today.

There’s a famous line spoken in the ‘70s by an Israeli politician trying to talk sense to his intemperate, overly demanding colleagues: “Lunatics, get down off the roof!” This is what left-leaning Democrats and independents ought to be shouting up at Jill Stein and her millions of supporters. Maybe the folks on the ground will be more successful than “Nader’s Raiders for Gore” were in their time. After all, now we know the consequences of the 2000 election. And this time, the man who must be stopped isn’t anyone’s idea of a compassionate conservative.

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Further reading:

“Truthdig sits down with the Green Party’s Jill Stein,” Truthdig.com, July 11, 2016

“Ralph Nader presidential campaign, 2000,” Wikipedia.com

“Nader’s Raiders for Gore,” BlackElectorate.com, October 26, 2000

“Nader elected Bush: Why we shouldn’t forget,” Politico.com, May 31, 2016

Too bad Tzipi Livni didn’t have to answer to Scotland Yard about war crimes

Tzipi Livni

When I read this week that Knesset member Tzipi Livni had been summoned by Scotland Yard for questioning on suspicion of war crimes (the summons was canceled after Israel complained to the British Foreign Office), I felt uncomfortable. I immediately tried to think of reasons why she shouldn’t be treated this way. After awhile, I decided there were no good reasons, and I was just afraid of thinking what seemed a disloyal thought, a traitorous thought, and when I considered it logically, without fear, I conceded that justice would have been served had Livni been questioned over her role as foreign minister during Operation Cast Lead, the onslaught in Gaza at the turn of 2009. Indeed, justice would have been served even better if she’d also been indicted, convicted and imprisoned.

You won’t agree with this, of course, if you don’t also agree that 1) the occupation is a historic injustice and 2) nothing is being done to stop it. But if you do go along with those two points – and any number of liberals worldwide, notably Jewish ones, do – then why shouldn’t Livni be held accountable for one of the occupation’s worst excesses? (About 1,400 Palestinians dead compared to 13 Israelis dead, awesome devastation in Gaza, all in the name of punishing Gazans for fighting back against Israel’s suffocating blockade of the Strip and military rule over the West Bank. Here’s the Goldstone report on Operation Cast Lead, the Amnesty International report on it, the Human Rights Watch report, the B’Tselem report and Breaking the Silence’s report.)

Livni, by the way, wasn’t just some apparatchik during the war; she was its enlightened, charismatic saleswoman in the West. When the French proposed a “humanitarian cease-fire” a few days after the bombing began, Livni said in Paris, “There is no humanitarian crisis [in Gaza] and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce.”

Unfair?

The only arguable point to be made against imprisoning Livni for war crimes is that it would be unfair because so many worse war criminals are walking around free. That’s true – but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve punishment. And the thing that legitimately makes her a prime candidate to be held culpable is that she is Israeli – because Israel gets away with abuses of other people like no other country in the world except maybe Saudi Arabia – and nobody in the West defends the Saudis like they do Israel.

The West imposes harsh economic sanctions on Russia because of its conquest of Crimea – which most Crimeans welcomed – but gives billions upon billions of dollars in aid along with free trade agreements to Israel, whose occupation is welcomed by no Palestinian. There are 146 countries under various sanctions – including sanctions against individual government officials in many of those countries – imposed by the U.S., EU, individual European countries and/or the UN Security Council. On that list of 146, Israel does not appear.

So hauling in Tzipi Livni in London would have made a modest start to leveling the playing field. And it would have had a powerful effect on Israelis, top to bottom, showing them that the West might finally be ready to start treating Israel like it does the world’s other malefactor countries, many of which are guilty of far lesser crimes than the occupation. If Scotland Yard had questioned Livni on the matter of war crimes, it would have been some teachable moment.

But of course it was missed; all it took was probably one well-placed phone call from Jerusalem. The point, though, is for people who lament the occupation and its durability to ask themselves: What is so terrible about holding Israel’s leaders accountable for it? What is so terrible about “radical” actions like that, or like BDS, or like fighting Israel in the UN? Is it better to stick with the current methods and tone of the “opposition,” or the “peace camp,” or the “international community,” which don’t lay a glove on the status quo? For the Palestinians’ sake, for Israel’s sake, is it better to watch this shit go on forever?

How Israel educated its citizens for peace on Wednesday

Destruction in Gaza
Destruction in Gaza, March 10, 2009, from Operation Cast Lead. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

On Wednesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said* that another war with Hamas in Gaza (there have been three in the last 7½ years) is “inevitable,” and that it will be Hamas’ “last” because next time Israel will destroy it for good. Also on Wednesday, Military Intelligence chief Herzl Halevi said the “next war” with Hezbollah will turn Lebanon “into a country of refugees that will have difficulty recovering …” Israel, Halevi noted, will recover, but for the homefront, facing Hezbollah’s 100,000 rockets and missiles, “it will be a whole different situation” than it’s been in previous wars.

This was in one day. One day, two wars. Inevitable.

This is the way our warmakers think and talk. And they’re not surprising anyone. The next war with Hamas, the next war with Hezbollah, right, whatever, hope it doesn’t screw up our plans for Italy.

Halevi said a couple of interesting things. One, that Syria was sending more and better weapons to Hezbollah, which were meant “not for the fighting in Syria, it is weaponry meant for combat against Israel … To a certain extent this could move up the outbreak of another round of conflict.”

This is how Israel can attack foreign countries, like Lebanon, and believe  it’s self-defense: All an enemy has to do is arm itself for there to be proof of their intent to attack, thus any Israeli attack is by definition “pre-emptive” – self-defense.

Halevi said another interesting thing:

Maybe because of the Holocaust we still carry this feeling of persecution … but in the region we are perceived as very, very strong, as aggressive and unpredictable and very powerful. It’s very important to preserve this asset.

The first part of the statement is a crucial fact about the Middle East that  Israelis don’t know, or don’t want to know, because it gets in the way of their Holocaust feeling of persecution – that Israel’s enemies know how strong it is and are, reasonably enough, scared to death of it. The second part, that Israel has to keep its enemies thinking that it’s powerful, aggressive and unpredictable – well, how do you do that without attacking them every now and then? Aggression – it’s the key to our survival.

Lieberman also said another interesting thing: that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is “the No. 1 problem for Israel.” Abbas has been arresting militants in the West Bank at the behest of the Israeli army and Shin Bet for 12 years, ever since he took over, but his “diplomatic” posture is a threat without equal, Lieberman said.

Inevitable? Another couple of wars? Please. That’s just for starters.

* The quotes about Hamas were attributed in the media to a “senior source in the Defense Ministry,” or variations of that, but they’re obviously from Lieberman himself. He’s been talking that way about Hamas for years. Yediot Ahronot put the quotes on the front page, attributing them to a “senior defense official,” then stuck Lieberman’s photo just to the left of it. On the other side of the photo they ran a headline about “Lieberman flying to Washington.” The “Washington” headline justified the photo, while the photo connected Lieberman’s mug to the quote on the other side, which read, “In the coming confrontation, Hamas will be destroyed.” Very clever.

Gaza destruction
Destruction in Gaza, March 10, 2009, after Operation Cast Lead. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Neo-fascists threaten the West; in Israel they’ve already arrived

From America to Austria, belligerent, xenophobic ultra-nationalism is rising. But its hold on power in Israel is far more secure — and uncontested.

Israeli neofascists
Members of right-wing organization Lehava protesting the wedding of a Jewish-born woman and a Muslim man in Rishon Letzion, August 17, 2014. Photo: Ofer Vaknin

I hear a lot of Israeli liberals saying that yes, things are bad here, but they’re bad everywhere. On the one hand, Avigdor Lieberman is running the army, a majority of Israelis believe the soldier who executed a prone Palestinian in Hebron behaved “responsibly,” and it’s gotten so that even Roni Daniel, Channel 2 news’ superhawk, is wondering whether his children should leave the country.

But on the other hand, they point out, America has Donald Trump. In Austria, the party of Jorg Haider just came within an inch of taking over. In France, Marine Le Pen is the rising power. All over Western Europe, even in Scandinavia, the neo-fascists are gaining strength.

So Israel isn’t alone in its slide into the swamp of belligerent, xenophobic ultra-nationalism — it’s happening in the most “enlightened” countries of the West. We’re in no worse a political predicament than they’re in, according to this view.

But this view is mistaken; our political predicament is worse. In the 21st century, the forces of belligerent, xenophobic ultra-nationalism have a much stronger, more secure hold on power in Israel than they do in any Western country (not counting Eastern Europe).

Israeli right getting more radical, powerful

Netanyahu has been elected prime minister four times, and each of his governments is more right-wing than the last. Meanwhile, the so-called center and center-left parties grow increasingly antagonistic toward the Palestinians and the Israeli Arab parties, until it’s become a bad joke to refer to them (except Meretz, the lone party of the Zionist left) as a liberal opposition. And now their leader, Isaac Herzog, has left them more divided and weaker than ever.

In Israel today, the right-wing powers-that-be are only getting more right-wing and more powerful; except for the Supreme Court (to a limited degree), there’s nothing and nobody to hold them back.

In America today, the situation is quite different. The president, now in his eighth and last year, is Barack Obama, the sort of liberal politician who has become extinct in 21st-century Israel. And even if the grotesque Donald Trump does win the November election, the Democrats, with their larger share of the electorate, will have a good chance of beating him the next time. The Republicans have no hope of ruling American politics without challenge for nearly a generation like the Likud and its allies have done here. Over there it’s the Democrats, davka, who have such a hope.

In Austria, the Freedom Party, running on the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant platform common to all European far-right parties, came within 0.7% of the vote to winning the presidency. But not only did it lose, the winner was a member of the liberal Green Party. And even if that result gets turned around in the coming years, the liberals will almost certainly remain contenders for power in Austria, unlike what’s happened in contemporary Israel.

In other Western European countries, even France with its National Front, the demagogic, nativist parties and movements are growing — but they are all still at a far remove from having national power such as that enjoyed here by Yisrael Beiteinu, Habayit Hayehudi and current-day Likud.

European consensus still liberal 

Since World War II, Western Europe has developed a strong liberal, tolerant consensus; this is fraying due to the large influx of Muslim immigrants and refugees and the influence of radical Islam in their ranks, but it remains the norm. By contrast, liberalism and tolerance for Arabs, while always a stream in Israeli politics, only came to the fore during the Oslo years — and even they were interrupted by Netanyahu’s first term. Since Oslo imploded in 2000, this stream has been steadily drying up — except during the anomaly of Sharon’s disengagement from Gaza – while the racism and militarism of the right keeps running stronger.

Western Europeans have problems with immigration, refugees and jihadism, and often with economics; these problems may grow to the point where they derange the public and the neo-fascists start taking power. But this hasn’t happened yet, and there’s a very good chance it won’t.

Israel, on the other hand, is a tiny ethnic-religious minority in a hostile region on a permanent war footing with its neighbors. Israel believes (wrongly) that it has done everything it can to make peace and been turned down, and so it trusts its security to the subjugation of the Palestinians and the periodic bombing of Syria and Hezbollah, with no expectation or even reasonable hope that things will change.

This is a much more deeply entrenched and volatile problem than the Western Europeans, or, certainly, the Americans have been dealing with.  What ails Israel is the sort of condition that’s just made for a long-term takeover by belligerent, xenophobic ultranationalists, which is what’s happened here and hasn’t happened there. No, unfortunately, this is not a Western country we’re living in.

Originally published in Haaretz.com, May 31, 2016.

Have the Palestinians given up?

Palestinian with flag
A Palestinian youth waves the national flag as the Israeli military digs in search of smuggling tunnels at the border east of Gaza city on May 15, 2016, on the 68th anniversary of the “Nakba.” Photo: Mahmud Hams, AFP

They may not admit it to themselves, but facts on the ground look as though Palestinians are conceding to the occupation, with no change in sight.

“The Palestinians will never resign themselves to Israeli rule.” This is an axiom of the anti-occupation camp, the so-called pragmatic argument against the status quo – that it’ll blow up in our faces sooner or later, like it always has.

But maybe this prediction isn’t accurate. Maybe the Palestinians, after fighting Israel for 100 years, have finally given up. They wouldn’t admit it, of course, probably not even to themselves, but on the ground that’s the way it looks, and has looked for several years.

I’m not declaring this situation as permanent; that would obviously be premature. But I am saying that there’s no sign of change, and that the possibility of ongoing, long-term Palestinian acquiescence to the occupation ought to be recognized, if only for the sake of honesty.

‘Better than ever’

The wave of terror that began last September has died down. It was never more than a streak of hysteria in the air, a collection of lone-wolf attacks; it never gained mass support. Hamas gave it little more than verbal encouragement while every day the Palestinian Authority helped the Shin Bet and Israeli army put it down. Israeli-PA cooperation in fighting terror is “better than ever,” according to top Israeli security officials quoted by Haaretz’s Amos Harel three weeks ago.

In Gaza, Hamas acquiesces to Israel’s blockade of the Strip, as well as to its violent enforcement of the no-go zone on the Gazan side of the border and the arbitrary nautical limits on fishermen. Hamas also restrains jihadist groups from firing rockets at Israel, while its own rocketing has slowed to a trickle since Operation Protective Edge two summers ago. In fact, it wasn’t much more than a trickle for most of the five and a half years before that, having been effectively overpowered by the first of Israel’s Gazan onslaughts, Operation Cast Lead at the turn of 2009.

On the diplomatic front, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ “UN strategy” continues spinning its wheels. He’d planned to bring an anti-settlement resolution before the UN Security Council, but he backed off last month at the behest of the French, who didn’t want anything to interfere with their new peace initiative, such as it is. In the international halls of power, Abbas is powerless.

On the whole, Palestinians in the West Bank have been fairly docile since Israel put down the second intifada a dozen years ago, while those in Gaza have been largely impotent since Israel first bashed up the Strip seven and a half years ago. There have been flare-ups – two more mini-wars with Gaza, a mini-intifada in East Jerusalem, and this last wave of terror – but in each case Israel gave incomparably more than it got, and when the dust cleared the occupation remained rigidly in place.

Military power can be a very useful thing. So can diplomatic power. And Israel has used its military and diplomatic power over the Palestinians very, very effectively. The Palestinians seem exhausted – and why shouldn’t they be?

Who would close down PA?

Aside from Israel’s military and diplomatic advantages, there are two other important things that have pacified the Palestinians – money and relative security. In a sense, the Palestinian Authority is a business, one that collects about $2 billion a year in foreign contributions and provides jobs to some 200,000 Palestinians and their families. It keeps the peace for Israel in the West Bank’s cities, villages and refugee camps, making the occupation quite tolerable for the occupier, which galls the Palestinians, of course – but on the other hand, who among their leaders and insiders is going to close down a business that gets $2 billion a year in donations and employs 200,000 people?

Abbas has cried wolf so many times about “giving back the keys” to Israel, about letting it resume policing nearly 4 million Palestinians in the West Bank like it did before Oslo, which would turn the status quo upside down and make the occupation acutely uncomfortable for the occupier – but Abbas has never gone through with the threat. Too many Palestinians (especially the leaders and insiders) have too much to lose. The population would be made destitute, and would once again get much, much the worse of it in the inevitable violent confrontation with the IDF. Abbas, at 81, won’t be around much longer, but the PA almost certainly will; the battle for succession is well underway.

As for the “international community,” they’re so weary of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and as long as the Palestinians aren’t making things difficult, why should the EU or UN or anybody else pay more than lip service to saving them?

Cave-in

I get no pleasure charting the Palestinians’ cave-in. As an Israeli I don’t want to see Israelis get hurt, and as a human being I don’t want to see Palestinians get hurt, but as a supporter of freedom, I don’t like seeing the Palestinians go on being subjugated, especially when the one holding them down is my country.

But what’s taking place is a cave-in. That’s what’s been taking place for a long time. The Palestinians as a nation are not mobilized for the cause of freedom, neither violently nor non-violently. And while this may change, there is no sign of it. Israel has overpowered them – and now comes Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Tragically, there are examples in history of weaker nations being crushed permanently by stronger ones. In his last days, humiliated and under house arrest in the Muqata, Arafat said defiantly that the Palestinians “are not red Indians,” meaning American Indians. I really hope he was right, but I wonder.

Originally published in Haaretz.com, May 20, 2016.