JERUSALEM – For decades, Israel has tried to resolve the Palestinian “problem” by ignoring it completely. The heads of the Israeli parties that make up the coalition government met with their party members recently and discussed the issues on their agendas and there was not a moment spent on Palestinians.
The following are examples of the statements made by the heads of the parties that lead the Israeli government:
- Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman, head of the right-wing party Yisrael Beiteinu (Hebrew for “Israel Our Home”), said: “This government has done more since it was established than the Netanyahu governments have done.”
- Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz, head of the so-called Zionist-left Meretz Party, said: “Our decision to allow daily routines to continue during Corona has proven itself.”
- Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid Party, said that Israel will never forsake the small businesses and that helping them during these difficult times is a national priority.
- Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who heads the Blue and White Party, talked about the need to strengthen the draft laws because, as he admits, only half of 18-year-old citizens of Israel are actually drafted into the military. The “Draft Law’ is designed to force the Ultra Orthodox community, many of whom are anti-Zionist and refuse to serve in the Israeli army, into service.
Meretz as a progressive group
“I work with leftist progressive groups on both sides, like the Meretz Party and whatever their equivalent may be on the Palestinian side,” I was told by an acquaintance recently. The claim that the soft-Zionist Meretz Party is somehow progressive or even “leftist” is part of the problem. No Zionist party should be considered progressive or “leftist.”
Seeing these two parties – Meretz and Yisrael Beiteinu – sitting in the same government should give one pause to think. What is Meretz – a party that claims to promote regional peace, says it demands the rescinding of the Nation State Law, and claims to stand for Palestinian rights – doing sitting in a coalition government with the right-wing Lieberman?
Meretz clearly states that it opposed the law that delegitimizes commemoration of Naqba Day by Palestinian citizens of Israel, while the Yisrael Beiteinu platform states:
Yisrael Beiteinu – Israel Our Home – has already enacted legislation that determines that any local authority that commemorates ‘Nakba Day’ will receive no financial aid from the State of Israel. We will continue with these types of legislation until the idea is fully inculcated that we will not accept the sight of a black flag on Independence Day.
A common denominator
The common denominator that allows Meretz to sit in a coalition government with Yisrael Beteinu, and with Naftali Bennett as prime minister, is Zionism. “Israel is the national home of the Jewish people,” the Meretz platform claims. Furthermore, it says, “Israel will recognize the Arab minority as its national minority with collective rights.” This may sound progressive but for the fact that Arabs in Palestine are not a minority but a majority.
Israel pretends that there is an Arab minority living within it – first by referring to the Palestinian citizens of the state as “Arabs of Israel,” and then by excluding 5 million Palestinians from any rights or privileges at all. Palestinians who reside in the pre-1967 occupation, or what is known as 1948 Palestine, are considered an Arab minority, or citizens; the Palestinians in the areas occupied in 1967 are excluded from any rights completely. That is a Zionist construct and it must be rejected.
What Palestinian problem?
The general attitude taken by Israeli politicians – and one dares say the people who voted for them – is that the Palestinian problem is not their problem. If they, the Palestinians, misbehave, the Israeli war machine, with its endless units and countless commandos and intelligence agencies, will know how to deal with them.
As the Israeli minister of communication, Yoaz Hendel, himself a decorated war criminal and former commander in an Israeli military terror squad, said, “Israel will continue to plant, build an infrastructure and regulate the Negev.” He was speaking about the Palestinian Bedouin uprising and resistance to Zionist ethnic cleansing of the Naqab for the purpose of — this is not a joke — forestation of the Naqab region. “Regulate” means to displace Palestinians and allow Israeli Jews to take their land.
The underlying message is that there is no problem – we know how to deal with the rioters and we will push forward with our agenda of displacement, land theft, and war crimes.
An unpleasant awakening
The Israeli government and indeed the State of Israel, in general, had a rude awakening on Tuesday, February 1, when Amnesty International accused Israel of subjecting Palestinians to a system of apartheid founded on “segregation, dispossession and exclusion,” which Amnesty said amounted to crimes against humanity.
The executive summary of the report begins with a quote from Israel’s former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The quote says, “Israel is not a state of all its citizens… [but rather] the nation-state of the Jewish people and only them.” Well there it is, really. Then the report goes on to describe what Palestinians have been claiming for nearly a century, namely:
Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has pursued an explicit policy of establishing and maintaining a Jewish demographic hegemony and maximizing its control over land to benefit Jewish Israelis while minimizing the number of Palestinians and restricting their rights and obstructing their ability to challenge this dispossession. In 1967, Israel extended this policy beyond the Green Line to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which it has occupied ever since. Today, all territories controlled by Israel continue to be administered with the purpose of benefiting Jewish Israelis to the detriment of Palestinians, while Palestinian refugees continue to be excluded.
It further states what Palestinians and people paying attention have said, which is:
This system of apartheid has been built and maintained over decades by successive Israeli governments across all territories they have controlled, regardless of the political party in power at the time.
In addition, the report states that, “given the scale and seriousness of the violations documented in this report,” it is “calling on the international community to urgently and drastically change its approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and recognize the full extent of the crimes that Israel perpetrates against the Palestinian people.” It calls on the international community to:
…[i]mmediately suspend the direct and indirect supply, sale or transfer, including transit and trans-shipment to Israel of all weapons, munitions and other military and security equipment, including the provision of training and other military and security assistance.
Finally, in what must be viewed as an enormous victory for all who care about Palestine, is the inclusion of the following passage:
[Israel must r]ecognize the right of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to homes where they or their families once lived in Israel or the OPT, and to receive restitution and compensation and other effective remedies for the loss of their land and property.
Perhaps at the next meeting of the heads of Israel’s leading political parties, they will finally see that Palestine is their problem.