The brother of the man who killed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is released after more than 16 years in prison for complicity in the murder.
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The brother of the man who killed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is released after more than 16 years in prison for complicity in the murder.
The unrepentant brother of the man who killed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was released from prison Friday after serving 16½ years for complicity in a murder that stunned Israel and according to some destroyed an opportunity for peace.
Ben White writes in a guest editorial for Informed Comment:
It has just come out that the Israeli military has earmarked ten percent of the land in the Occupied West bank for Israeli settlements. In addition, the Israeli government is moving forward with an outrageous plan that will mean the expulsion of tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens in the Negev desert. The context is the warning issued by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a 2010 government meeting that a Negev “without a Jewish majority” would pose “a palpable threat”.
You won’t be told about this by television news, your elected representatives, or the US State Department (in fact, when asked about the Negev displacement plan they dismissed it as an “internal Israeli matter”). But this is the inconvenient truth that prompted the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to recently issue what according to one expert was the most cutting “condemnation of a legal system of segregation since apartheid South Africa”. That is why Land Day, beginning with the struggle for the land, is now marked all over the world as the movement for decolonisation and equality in Palestine/Israel gains momentum.
March 30 is marked by Palestinians as Land Day, but many in the West are unaware of the origins and significance of this annual protest. It is an opportunity to shed some light on the significant issues marginalised by the mainstream discussion about the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.
The first Land Day was held by Palestinian citizens of Israel (so-called ‘Israeli Arabs’) in 1976, as part of opposition to the expropriation of land by the state. Marked by a general strike and mass demonstrations, the response was brutal repression: six Palestinians were shot dead, as the Israeli government mobilised armoured vehicles and tanks to patrol villages in the Galilee.
In the aftermath, then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s cabinet “unanimously commended the security forces for their ‘restraint’ in handling the strike and the ensuing disturbances”. It was a justified response, apparently, to what Prof. Oren Yiftachel described as “a head-on challenge to the Judaization project”.
The land expropriations that led to Land Day were one example of how, in the words of Israeli legal advocacy group Adalah, the state “confiscated massive amounts of land from Palestinian citizens” after 1948. Estimates are that by the late 1970s, the average Arab community had lost between two thirds and three quarters of its land.
This is one facet of a discriminatory regime that goes to the heart of the question of Palestine: a history of ethnic cleansing, confiscation, alienation, and manipulated planning – all in order to maintain a system that privileges one group over another.
As former Israeli PM Menachem Begin’s adviser on Arab affairs put it: “If we needed this land, we confiscated it from the Arabs. We had to create a Jewish state in this country, and we did.” The facts bear out this honest appraisal. In 1948-53, 95 percent of new Jewish communities were established on ‘absentee’ property – that is, belonging to Palestinian refugees prevented from returning.
Yet a number of Palestinians remained, and particularly in the Galilee and the Negev in the south, the Israeli state was concerned about the ‘demographic battle’. This discourse (and the policies shaped by it) continues through to the present day: the current Housing Minister spoke in 2009 of it being a “national duty” to “prevent the spread” of Palestinian citizens in the Galilee.
The policies referred to by author Oren Yiftachel as ‘Judaization’ signify the attempt to boost the Jewish population of an area seen as having ‘too many’ non-Jews. One example was the establishment of mitzpim (Hebrew: ‘look out’) communities in the 1970s and ‘80s, in the Galilee. The goal of the initiative, in the words of a Jewish Agency planner, was to “prevent Arabs from ‘taking over’ government lands, keep Arab villages from attaining territorial continuity and attract a ‘strong’ population to the Galilee’.”
Israel’s systematic ethnic discrimination means the manipulation of regional authority boundaries and the planning regime. Misgav Regional Council, established in the 1980s, is an illustrative example. Given “a highly irregular geographical shape, in order to include most Jewish settlements and exclude most Arab villages”, the result has been to reinforce “patterns of functional and social segregation in the region”. In other words, Misgav is “not a regional plan in the ordinary sense” but “a strategic plan…to preserve state lands”.
Remember – this is all inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders, the supposed ‘democratic’ Israel loved by liberal Zionists who restrict their criticisms to West Bank settlements. But what do liberals say about admission committees that operate in around 70 percent of all communities in Israel, a key tool in the exclusion of Palestinian citizens and the maintenance of Jewish control over rural land? These committees are now supported by legislation in around 40 percent of communities; supporter of the law MK David Rotem said that he believed Jews and Arabs could be “separate but equal”.
This is the reality for Palestinian citizens that Israel and its advocacy groups don’t want to talk about, preferring false platitudes about ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’. These policies are what unite the experiences of Palestinians in both the pre-67 borders and in the West Bank.
Ben White is a freelance journalist and writer. Ben’s articles are available on his website and he tweets at @benabyad
Ben White’s new book is “Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy”, available at Amazon.
The iconic moment at left took place 18 years ago yesterday. There were moments in the 1990s, when Yitzhak Rabin was still alive, that a real peace seemed possible. Both sides bear some of the responsibility for its failure, and so does the man in the middle, who pushed Camp David II before he had a real breakthrough in place. For all his posing as a freedom fighter, Arafat was a horribly cautious man. Mahmoud Abbas is nowhere near as charismatic as Arafat, but he does seem more willing to take risks. Arafat knew when to hold ’em and knew when to fold ’em, but wasn’t the sort to raise the ante when he wasn’t holding a good hand. Is Abbas? It’s starting to look like it: or maybe he’s holding a better hand than his opponents think.
On October 6, 1973, Anwar Sadat sent Egyptian forces across the Suez Canal. For the first time in an Arab-Israeli war, there was virtually none of the “drive Israel into the sea” sort of rhetoric and a lot of rhetoric about recovering Sinai. In most military senses the Egyptians ended that war on the losing side: they had a whole Field Army surrounded and cut off from Cairo by an Israeli strike force west of the Canal. But Sadat was able to reopen the Canal and get parts of Sinai back because Henry Kissinger started his shuttle diplomacy. Sadat won a diplomatic, not a conventional military, victory, because he’d had the daring to reshuffle the deck, and also to introduce wild cards (throwing the Russians out: tilting toward the Americans.) (Okay; I’ll try hard to refrain from further poker metaphors in the rest of this post.)
An interesting number of people in the blogosphere and media are asking what would be so disastrous if the United States, which claims to want a two-state solution, accepted a United Nations recognition of Palestine. It would be hard, though I’m sure they’d find a way, for Israel to claim that the UN has no right to do that since, well, Israel was created directly through United Nations action. For political reasons and others, the US will veto any Security Council resolution, but if Palestine wins a big General Assembly vote, the calculus will change.
The US would indeed further isolate itself, as Prince Turki al-Faisal has noted in the NYT, in what seems to be a nearly open Saudi threat to break with the US on this. Even peace-leaning Israeli commentators are expressing the wish that Israel had sought to constructively engage (and perhaps even forestall) a UN vote, rather than simply throw down the gauntlet of defiance.
I don’t really expect the US Administration, beleaguered by economic difficulties and political attacks, to go out on a limb. And I don’t expect an Israel under Netanyahu and Lieberman to take daring risks. But neither we nor Israel may be in the driver’s seat here. And perhaps we should at least ask ourselves: would s dramatic change in the status quo be a disaster, or perhaps create an opportunity for new thinking.
One last poker image: is it time not just to up the ante, but to kick over the card table and see who’s holding what when you pick it up again? It worked for Sadat in 1973.
“… being called a Zionist is about as nasty a charge as there is in many parts of the Arab world, the dark corners of the blogosphere and a few other places. To many Israelis, calling the deposed Egyptian president a Zionist is an insult to their country, as they quickly and correctly cite a long list of affronts that made for a cold peace, … Mubarak refused to visit Israel (he said his trip to Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral didn’t count) … He was the go-to Arab leader when Israel needed help dealing with other Arabs, particularly with the Palestinians. He was a better ally than he got credit for. Some observers say that by keeping the peace cold he was able to do more for Israel, as well as for Egypt. … He joined Israel’s blockade of Gaza in order to weaken the Islamist terror group’s hold there, and began the construction of a security barrier along the Gaza-Sinai border to prevent smuggling….”
“… every time a new dire warning was issued, a new rationale was presented to convince the world that the latest Israeli warning was more serious than the previous one. The Israeli threats, however, were bluffs all along. Israel did not have the capacity to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities. But the huffing and puffing ensured that the American military option remained on the table; that Washington would not deviate from the Israeli red line of rejecting uranium enrichment on Iranian soil; and that the Iranian nuclear program was kept at the top of the international community’s agenda.
But the persistent bluffing also carried a price. The Israeli narrative on Iran has grown increasingly alarmist, desperate, and existential over the past 15 years. Inflating the Iranian threat served several purposes domestically. It provided Israeli Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres a rationale to push for peace with the Palestinians in the 1990s, while more recently Benjamin Netanyahu has used it to resist pressure from Washington to do just that. But the domestic benefits came at the price of limiting Israel’s options and flexibility vis-à-vis Iran. As Israeli politicians built up the Iranian threat and established a near-consensus that Tehran constituted an existential threat, it became increasingly difficult for any Israeli politician to walk back the threat depiction without losing critical political capital at home. As a result, there was a steady escalation of the threat depiction from Iran and no clear ways to de-escalate… …
Against this backdrop, statements by both Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan in the past few days have stirred the political pot in Israel and made headlines worldwide. Speaking at a conference in Jerusalem, Dagan said that bombing Iran’s nuclear installations would be “a stupid idea,” adding that military action might not achieve all of its goals and could lead to a long war. Numerous Israeli officials have derided him for undercutting the pressure on Iran… One of the few Israeli leaders who has consistently cautioned against Israel’s alarmist line on Iran is current Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Earlier this week, he warned against hysteria on the Iranian threat … … He warned against making Israel a target of Iran by inflating the Iranian threat as far back as 1993. “We should, therefore, not create a climate of hysteria by setting ourselves up as Iran’s main target,” Barak said according to Agence France Presse. Dagan’s challenge to the official Israeli line may have been calculated to do exactly what no sitting Israeli Prime Minister seems capable of doing — breaking the strategic paralysis, and to stop painting Israel in a corner where pressure on the U.S. to attack Iran chips away from Israel’s credibility due to its repeated inability to fulfill its threats…”
“…Israeli security orthodoxy has long been built on two related premises: first, that Arab and Muslim hostility toward Israel is both inexorable and irrational — so neither withdrawal nor peace is likely to offer Israelis major security dividends — and second, that foreign powers and international institutions cannot be trusted to protect Israel.
To be sure, Israel’s leaders have at times questioned the continuing relevance of these premises. Indeed, when seeking the Knesset’s support for the Oslo agreement in 1993, the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin declared, “No longer are we necessarily ‘a people that dwells alone,’ and no longer is it true that ‘the whole world is against us.'”
Over the last decade, however, widespread disillusionment with the Oslo process, and the sense that their unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip served to embolden, rather than placate, enemies such as Hezbollah and Hamas, have led many Israelis to conclude that genuine peace is an elusive dream. Moreover, they cite the perceived failure of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and the European Union Border Assistance Mission in Gaza to prevent rocket attacks on Israel as evidence that when the going gets tough, Israelis can rely only on themselves for security. Presented with this bleak security picture, many Israelis see the retention of West Bank territory — i.e., the concept of defensible borders — as not only politically desirable but also a strategic necessity.
Israelis have learned the wrong lessons from the wars of the last decade. Although defensible borders would preserve Israel’s latitude to act independently in the short run, it would undermine, rather than promote, its long-term security. Israel’s refusal to relinquish territory occupied in 1967 would give its enemies increased motivation to attack — and bolster the perceived legitimacy of violence among Arabs disillusioned with the international community’s failure to make good on the promise to deliver land for peace. And it would only marginally limit the capacity of Israel’s enemies to inflict damage: Israel’s efforts to shift its population away from its crowded coastline, along with steady advances in the range of missiles and rockets possessed by militant groups and nearby states, will leave Israelis vulnerable regardless of where the state’s borders are drawn. And as the international community presses further toward accountability for war crimes, Israel will find it increasingly costly, legally and politically, to use overwhelming military force to deter attacks. …”
“The conversation should also be understood as having occurred within 15 minutes of a meeting between Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that was attended also, and only, by myself and Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin. That meeting agreed on military deliveries (especially airplanes)”. (thanks Nabeel)