A Half-Century of Oppression

Israel’s right-wing governments bear the greatest guilt for the last half-century of oppressing the Palestinians but the divided and ineffectual opposition has played its part, too, says Alon Ben-Meir.

By Alon Ben-Meir

On June 5, Israel reaches the grim milestone of 50 years of occupation of the West Bank. Many Israelis have become complacent and succumbed to the government’s argument that the continuing occupation is necessary to safeguard Israel’s national security.

Controversial maps showing the shrinking territory available to the Palestinians. Hardline Israelis insist that there are no Palestinian people, that all the land belongs to Israel and that it therefore inaccurate to show any “Palestinian lands.”

Others are lamenting the day, as they view the occupation not only as a gross violation of Palestinian human rights, but a real menace to Israel’s democratic nature and Jewish national character.

Whereas right-wing Israeli governments have maintained the occupation by any means available, including the use of force, the Israeli opposition parties from the left and center have failed miserably over many years to advance a unified political platform to end the occupation and resolve the conflict based on a two-state solution.

With every passing day, it is becoming increasingly difficult to establish a Palestinian state with a contiguous land mass, which is a result of legalizing illegal settlements and building new and expanding existing ones. This settlement activity has changed the demographic composition of Israeli Jews and Palestinians inside the West Bank.

Should this trend continue for another ten years, it is estimated that the number of Jews living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem will grow from the current 650,000 to one million, creating irreversible facts on the ground that will render the two-state solution inviolable.

Successive right-wing Israeli governments, especially the current one led by Benjamin Netanyahu, have never committed to a two-state solution. Instead, they have determined to manage the occupation by the use of force and intimidation while forcing the Palestinians to live in self-governing cantons and allowing them to manage their own internal affairs as long as they do not pose a security threat.

This dangerous development was largely made possible by two factors: first is the Israeli political system, which encourages the proliferation of parties with various political orientations. On average, there are 12-15 political parties that garner the minimum threshold of 3.25 percent of the votes to be elected. As a result, every Israeli government since the inception of the state is a coalition government consisting of several parties, which together enjoy the backing of a majority in the Knesset. The second is the fact that past and current opposition parties from the center and left have been unwilling to form a coalition government with a united platform to end the occupation.

One of the main reasons behind this discord between the parties is not as much their ideological difference but the blind personal ambition of party leaders — including Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid, Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union (along with Tzipi Livni), and others — to become prime minister, as they view themselves as the most qualified to lead the country.

Thus, the political field was left open for Netanyahu and his cohorts to expand the settlements, forcefully claiming that the Jews have a historic and biblical right to the entire “Land of Israel” that God bequeathed to them, and that Israel has every right to build anywhere in Judea and Samaria. Although Netanyahu continues to assert that he supports a two-state solution, he never provided a convincing argument as to how he would square the creation of a Palestinian state with Israel’s claims to the same land and its continued building of settlements where the Palestinians are supposed to establish their own state.

To explain the “rationale” behind this contradiction, however, he argues that Israel’s concerns over security and the Palestinians’ long-term objective to destroy the state compels Israel to maintain its control over the entire territory by whatever intrusive security measures necessary. Moreover, several members of the Netanyahu government openly call for the annexation of much of the West Bank, as from their perspective there must never be a Palestinian state.

Pariah State

The dire consequences of continuing the occupation are extremely damaging to Israel’s character and national security. Other than the intense and growing opposition of the international community, Israel’s loss of its moral compass and continued resistance to the creation of a Palestinian state will be to its detriment. Israel is increasingly becoming a pariah state, deprived of peace with the Arab world and gradually losing its very reason to exist as a Jewish state that ironically Netanyahu and the extreme right insist on characterizing it as such.

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk together prior to President Trump’s address, May 23, 2017, at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Finally, the continuing occupation will inevitably intensify the conflict, which will become ever more ferocious as the Palestinians’ prospect of establishing a state of their own fades away.

Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state rests on the shoulders of the opposition parties. They must think of what will happen if the current or future right-of-center governments continue with the present policy and maintain the occupation for another 10 years or more.

They must remember that the fate of the country is in their hands. They must set their personal ambitions aside and put the future security and wellbeing of the state first. They must produce a unified political program to end the occupation and explain to the public the disastrous consequences Israel will face unless the occupation comes to an end.

As a single party with unity of purpose, they can successfully challenge the Netanyahu government in the next election. They should learn from 70 years of experience that no political party has been able to garner a majority of the electorate to form a government on its own, but together they can mobilize the public behind the noble cause of unshackling Israel from the self-degrading occupation.

If they fail, they too will be blamed for having betrayed the nation and sacrificed a millennium-old dream of a Jewish state — a state recognized not only because of its unprecedented achievements, but for its high moral standing and the realization that its future as an independent, free, and secure state depends on allowing the Palestinians to enjoy the same rights.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. alon@alonben-meir.com Web: www.alonben-meir.com

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37 comments for “A Half-Century of Oppression

  1. Drew Hunkins
    June 4, 2017 at 5:43 pm

    Actually Israel’s Labor party has been just as vicious and bloodthirsty historically as the Likud psychopaths. Land grabbing, arbitrary arrests and home demolitions went on just as frequently under Labor as Likud.

    What was critical is that Labor was always a bit more palatable to Western tastes in its behavior and conduct toward Gaza, the West Bank and the rest of its Middle Eastern neighbors. Labor knew how to play the global propaganda game and do things more quietly and under th table than Likud. Labor knew how to smooth things over, it was typically not as brazen.

    It’s not dissimilar to Obama/Killary style propaganda and warfare vs. the brash, in your face violence of Bush/Cheney.

    • Jacques
      June 9, 2017 at 10:03 am

      Right on!

    • June 9, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      EXCELLENT COMMENT ,Truthful/accurate .

  2. Zachary Smith
    June 4, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state rests on the shoulders of the opposition parties. They must think of what will happen if the current or future right-of-center governments continue with the present policy and maintain the occupation for another 10 years or more.

    They must remember that the fate of the country is in their hands. They must set their personal ambitions aside and put the future security and wellbeing of the state first. They must produce a unified political program to end the occupation and explain to the public the disastrous consequences Israel will face unless the occupation comes to an end.

    As a single party with unity of purpose, they can successfully challenge the Netanyahu government in the next election.

    And precisely how are those “unified” opposition types supposed to do anything when they represent under 30% of the population of the little outhouse of a nation?

    Title from a recent news story:

    70 percent of Israelis still want right-wing government, poll finds

    The latest monthly Peace Index, which was published Tuesday by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, showed that only 24 percent of the country would prefer a left-wing or center-left government to be elected. The survey included 500 Jewish and 100 Arab adults and had a 4.1 percent margin of error.

    Israel is living high on the hog from the endless charity money from US Taxpayers. They get to preen as God’s Favorite People, and to bully/murder helpless Palestinians at will. Why the blazes would they want any of this to change?

    Alon Ben-Meir keeps writing these meaningless hand-wringing essays which have no basis in reality. And I note that as usual he carefully avoids calling for a complete evacuation from the stolen lands.

    I fully understand that the crap-hole nation he is writing about wouldn’t pay any more attention to such a suggestion from him as they would for one from me, but at least he’d put himself squarely on the side of Right instead of merely pretending to be.

    http://www.jta.org/2017/04/04/news-opinion/israel-middle-east/amid-talk-of-elections-poll-finds-israelis-want-right-wing-government

  3. Sleepless In Mars
    June 4, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    “The practical reason for freedom is that freedom seems to be the only condition under which any kind of substantial moral fiber can be developed — we have tried law, compulsion and authoritarianism of various kinds, and the result is nothing to be proud of. Conservatism is not a body of opinion, it has no set platform or creed, and hence, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a hundred-per-cent conservative group or party.
    The conservative is a person who considers very closely every chance, even the longest, of “throwing out the baby with the bath-water,” as the German proverb puts it, and who determines his conduct accordingly.
    You get the same order of criminality from any State to which you give power to exercise it; and whatever power you give the State to do things for you carries with it the equivalent power to do things to you.”
    Albert Jay Nock (13 October 1873 – 19 August 1945)

    All government are run by liars. Debt is going up and security down because the liars are in the business of public robbery which is public debt. Trillions are gone and now conservative Trump has plans to expand the criminality and destroy journalism. Ignore him.

    • Bill Bodden
      June 4, 2017 at 8:24 pm

      All government are run by liars. Debt is going up and security down because the liars are in the business of public robbery which is public debt.

      One of several reasons for those failures in government is a populace that fails to live up to its duty as citizens. Good government is essential. To keep government good citizens must be informed, enlightened and vigilant.

  4. David Smith
    June 4, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    An interesting slip in the fourth paragraph, where Mr. Ben-Meir misuses the word “inviolable” but unintentionly makes a true statement. Yes, Mr.Ben-Meir, The State of Palestine is truely “inviolable” as 200 nations already recognize it. Mr. Ben-Meir’s preference is obvious, he wants The State of Palestine to be “unviable”, that is “dead”. Sorry Mr. Ben-Meir, but illegal jewish settlements built in The State of Palestine do not create ” irreversible facts on the ground”, the settlers will have to leave and leave the buildings, undamaged, as a small part of a compensation package.

  5. Joe Tedesky
    June 4, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    I noticed this article the other day, which I’m providing a link too, where it reports how Israeli’s are coming out in support of the Palestinian plight. My hope is that the Israeli citizen will show up in bigger, and bigger numbers, and that the Israeli’s may overpower the Zionist leadership, and do what’s right.

    http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2017/05/28/523435/Palestine-Israel-Tel-Aviv

    • Herman
      June 5, 2017 at 7:25 am

      Mr. Tedesky, the only way it seems the matter will be straightened out if the Jews in Israel decides to do it. We and Europeans are too compromised to do anything other than beating their breasts then following the lead of the current Zionist coalition.

      • \
        June 5, 2017 at 12:55 pm

        yOI

      • Joe Tedesky
        June 5, 2017 at 11:31 pm

        Herman in my mind the only peace that could settle the Palestinian plight, would be if it were to occur internally inside of that Palestinian Israeli society. The U.S. can’t decide any settlement without the people who live there accepting it as a fair solution. The other thing is the U.S. should take care of it’s own house, because God only knows how badly America is falling apart. Besides who are we U.S. Arbitrators of peace, when all we do is commit to war?

  6. Cal
    June 4, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    ”but a real menace to Israel’s democratic nature and Jewish national character.”

    ”If they fail, they too will be blamed for having betrayed the nation and sacrificed a millennium-old dream of a Jewish state — a state recognized not only because of its unprecedented achievements, but for its high moral standing ”

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>

    what democratic nature..???
    what unprecedented achievements, (and) but for its high moral standing ”…???

    Pardon me while I vomit. Ben-Meir is obviously just another Zionist-lite Cult member.

    • Sam F
      June 4, 2017 at 9:19 pm

      Yes, the writer has clear zionist perspectives. He offers no grounds for hopey-changey in the “blind personal ambition of party leaders” causing “discord between the parties” that are “unwilling to form a coalition government with a united platform to end the occupation.” They are probably mostly egoistic demagogic tyrants, who would preserve the oppressed minority and fears of foreign powers, so as to pose falsely as protectors and accuse their moral superiors of disloyalty. And those “opposition” parties are probably just feel-gooders who know that they profit from the right-wing repression, and will not in fact oppose it.

      The ethnic discrimination of “Jewish national character” contradicts any “democratic nature” in Israel. Any mythical “unprecedented achievements” or “high moral standing” are clearly propaganda, and the zionist “dream” of an ethnic state is the oldest type of cult scam. Israel has deliberately created the perfect conditions for a permanent tyranny by oppressing a large domestic minority and deeply offending all of its neighbors for generations

      I would advise the better Israelis to emigrate, perhaps start a new Israel where they are not opposed or inconvenient, and leave the fanatics to their fate at the hands of the enemies they have created. That would really weaken the right wing there, without any political contest or security risk to the better ones.

  7. Bill Bodden
    June 4, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish state, …

    Democratic and Jewish? How is that possible if non-Jews are excluded or are second-class citizens? Other than that, an excellent article.

  8. mike k
    June 4, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    Israel is simply a criminal immoral state, and will be so until it turns the settlements back to their rightful owners. That is never going to happen; so Israel is a failed state that is now fascist in every respect. To entertain hopes for this outfit is to betray every human value.

  9. mike k
    June 4, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    Israel is a criminal immoral state. Until they return the settlement lands to their rightful owners, they will continue to be a failed fascist state. There is no way they are ever going to make this amends. To entertain any hope for Israel is to dishonor every human value. This state is beyond redemption: it simply needs to disappear.

    And there is no way I am an anti-Semite. I am pro-Jewish and anti-Israel.

  10. backwardsevolution
    June 4, 2017 at 11:43 pm

    A two-state solution? Nobody there wants that. They just pretend they do.

    The wars in the Middle East? A nice distraction which keeps everybody from looking at Israel and forcing them to solve the situation. This way they can use false flags to incite the indigenous people, and then cry out: “Look, we’re surrounded by barbarians! There’s no way we can possibly solve the situation at the present moment, not until the fighting dies down,” which they will make sure never happens.

    The opposition? “As a single party with unity of purpose, they can successfully challenge the Netanyahu government in the next election.” Why would they want to do that? They don’t. They’re just a pretend opposition.

    Stall, stall, and stall some more, giving the Israelis enough time to take all the land.

    “High moral standing”? Where?

    Bullies.

    This will eventually backfire on the Jews, just as has happened throughout their history.

    • mike k
      June 5, 2017 at 7:11 am

      I think your last sentence is too broad. All Jews throughout history? “They” have always been “this way” throughout their entire history? This is the stuff of prejudice.

      • anarchyst
        June 8, 2017 at 12:25 pm

        That’s right…they have been kicked out of 109 countries, so far…maybe its time for 110…

  11. James Titcomb
    June 5, 2017 at 6:40 am

    Fork off. What happened the last time Israel withdrew from the West Bank in 2005? The Palestinians immediately launched rockets at Israeli civilians.

    • Zachary Smith
      June 5, 2017 at 9:53 am

      Are you an eight-grade Hasbara guy or gal? The “West Bank” is the land stolen from Jordan. The land Israel turned into an open air prison and IDF free-fire zone in 2005 was stolen from Egypt – a place called Gaza.

      Regarding the rockets, Holy Israel says the evil Paleos fired them. Since that little cesspool of a nation is so very honest about these matters, obviously it didn’t lie. Or perhaps launch a handful of over-sized bottle rockets itself.

    • Rob Roy
      June 6, 2017 at 6:35 pm

      The Israeli didn’t “withdraw.” They were evicted. The reason was not to do the right thing for once for the Gazans, but to clear the area of Jews so when the “lawn mowing” went into high gear every couple years by the IDF, only Palestinians would be murdered, not Jews. BTW, count the dead and who they are and don’t tell me the bottle rockets killed many, if any, Jews. Count the dead Palestinians where children in these brutal attacks, the “little snakes,” are targeted. Hamas targets only soldiers, never civilians.

  12. Paranam Kid
    June 5, 2017 at 6:54 am

    1 aspect that Hasbara has managed to erase from our collective memory is that israel was actually created fraudulently. Jeremy R. Hammond wrote an excellent essay about this in 2010 entitled “The myth of the UN creation of israel”.

    A highlight of the conclusion of the essay
    U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 neither legally partitioned Palestine nor conferred upon the Zionist leadership any legal authority to unilaterally declare the existence of the Jewish state of Israel. It merely recommended that the UNSCOP partition plan be accepted and implemented by the concerned parties. Nor could the General Assembly have legally partitioned Palestine or otherwise conferred legal authority for the creation of Israel to the Zionist leadership, as it simply had no such authority to confer.

    In sum, the popular claim that the U.N. “created” Israel is a myth, and Israel’s own claim in its founding document that U.N. Resolution 181 constituted legal authority for Israel’s creation, or otherwise constituted “recognition” by the U.N. of the “right” of the Zionist Jews to expropriate for themselves Arab land and deny to the majority Arab population of that land their own right to self-determination, is a patent fraud.

    Jeremy is an an award-winning independent political analyst, author, and founding editor and publisher of “Foreign Policy Journal”. If you sign up to his newsletter (https://jeremyrhammond.us1.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=4b72d5f5ad0adc5fc9fdac2fe&id=918e0fef2d) you get his ebook (The Israel-Palestine Conflict: A Collection of Essays) free of charge.

    Note: I have no relationship with Jeremy, neither commercial, nor political, nor in any other way. I just stumbled on his website & got his ebook which impressed me.

    • Gregory Herr
      June 5, 2017 at 4:49 pm

      Jeremy does good work.

      “Obstacle to Peace: The U.S. Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” is recently published.

  13. Herman
    June 5, 2017 at 7:10 am

    The call for the creation of a Palestinian state is a straw man, alleging to be goal and striving for the impossible, allowing Israeli suppression and expansion to continue, and impedes the only practical solution, a democratic state where Arabs and Jews have equal rights. I understand why Israeli extremists and their followers continue to keep the two states “solution” floating in the air, I do not understand why others wanting a just settlement do.

    • mike k
      June 5, 2017 at 7:22 am

      Exactly. This is what I meant above in saying that Israel should just disappear. The whole idea of the present “state of Israel” is a fraud. It has no legitimate existence whatever. If Jews living in Palestine wish to have a State, then they should form one with the consent of all those living in that part of our world. Otherwise they are simply invading occupiers, like the Americans on Indian lands. Their “legitimacy” is solely based on force of arms.

    • Skip Scott
      June 5, 2017 at 7:59 am

      Herman-

      Very true. They prefer to keep the two state solution in limbo. If they admit to the fact that they want all the land and water, and no Palestinian state, then they are just as obviously an apartheid regime as South Africa was. So they hold out the possibility of a two state solution with absolutely no intention of ever allowing it to actually happen. Then they go out and “mow the grass” every few years.

      We Americans are supposed to believe in the separation of Church and State with equal rights for all. That should be a fundamental principle we require of any nation we do business with.

      • Paranam Kid
        June 6, 2017 at 9:32 am

        The UN has proved that israel is an apartheid state. The UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia published the report in March entitled Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid, no. E/ESCWA/ECRI/2017/1.

        israel is guilty of the crime of Apartheid, one of the two gravest crimes against humanity (second only to Genocide). israel and its patrons have desperately sought to shelve a discussion about Zionism as a racist ideology. The Apartheid report brings it back to the front. This ties in with UN Resolution 3379 (1975), which equates Zionism with racism.

  14. mike k
    June 5, 2017 at 7:25 am

    The “State of Israel” was born through the terrorism of Zionist Jews. It’s early leaders were all terrorists, and it’s present leaders continue that tradition of terrorizing the original inhabitants of Palestine.

  15. Tortoise
    June 5, 2017 at 7:34 am

    “creating irreversible facts on the ground that will render the two-state solution inviolable.”

    Do you mean non-viable?

  16. Zachary Smith
    June 5, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    This is a little bit off the subject, but I just found out that Trump’s national security adviser thinks Israel’s 1967 Land Grab War was just spiffy. Something to be admired and imitated.

    TEL AVIV, Israel — In an address to Jewish activists in Washington on the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War, U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster praised the way Israel “seized the initiative” by exploiting opportunities that enabled it to route seven Egyptian divisions and wrest control of the Suez Canal, all within four days of that short and decisive war.

    “In June 1967, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) saw that Egyptian divisions, so formidable on paper, were built up along the major roads through the Sinai. Israel saw the spaces between them as gaps to be exploited. They seized and retained the initiative,” McMaster told a conference of the American Jewish Committee.

    While today’s security landscape may seem dire, McMaster asserted that opportunities must be found and exploited, much like Israel did in 1967. “In this department, Israel has adapted and performed amazingly well. It acted on opportunities, when others might only see difficulties,” he said.

    The man is supposed to be some sort of maverick. Kissing Holy Israel’s Heiny is actually quite mainstream in Washington.

    http://www.defensenews.com/articles/mcmaster-urges-contemporary-lessons-from-israels-seized-initiative-in-1967-six-day-war

    Read it and gag.

  17. June 5, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    Much of this apologia for Israel is as much invented history as is the Likud’s unequivocal commitment to preventing a Palestinian state from ever existing alongside Israel.

    Israel has never evidenced “high moral standing”, as its very first institutions were labeled fascist by Einstein, Hannah Arendt and two dozen other American Jews in 1948 – and its history is that of militant and state terrorism from its inception.

    Nor was there “a millennium-old dream of a Jewish state” – the Zionist vision was for a Jewish homeland amongst the indigenous people’s of Palestine (which the Balfour Declaration supported).

    Even Hamas has long since abandoned the goal of eliminating the Zionist State, while the Likud Party Charter still demands that there will be no Palestinian statehood.

    There will never be an end to the conflict created by expansionist Zionists as long as allegedly “liberal” voices like Ben-Meir continue to propagate self-serving myths.

  18. koning279
    June 6, 2017 at 4:12 am

    “The dire consequences of continuing the occupation are extremely damaging to Israel’s character and national security. Other than the intense and growing opposition of the international community, Israel’s loss of its moral compass and…”
    Did they ever display a moral compass? “Damaging to their character?” Not really, they get what they want and are not particularly the kind of people who are charitable (unless it is within the Jewish community). No reason to care anyway, because they get huge sums from the US and is protected on all sides: their war crimes go completely unpunished in the same way as the US knows they can do what they like: that is their freedom and they won’t change because other people might care.

  19. anarchyst
    June 8, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Let’s not forget the 50th anniversary of Israel’s “act of war” against the United States with the deliberate unprovoked attack on the USS Liberty (GTR-5). The news media’s non-response to this “act of war” is not surprising as the “mainstream media” is owned, lock, stock and barrel by “you know who”…
    So sad…

  20. eric
    June 9, 2017 at 11:59 am

    The West bank should be incorporated into the country of Israel and the Palestinians just become citizens of Israel like many Palestinian Arabs already have in present day Israel . No need for a another country .

  21. Chet Roman
    June 9, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    “a millennium-old dream of a Jewish state — a state recognized not only because of its unprecedented achievements, but for its high moral standing..”

    Israel has never been known for its high moral standing, just the opposite. The truth of Israeli brutal ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and 1967 has been kept from the population by the Zionist friendly media. From the very beginning the Zionists launched a brutal campaign to steal as much land as possible, either kill are force out the Palestinians and this “slow montion” ethnic cleansing continues to this day.

    The author is just perpetuating a myth that it is only the “right wing” Israelis that are against a Palestinian state and consider Palestinians to be a lower form of life. When Netanyahoo was bombing Gaza killing many hundreds of defenseless women and children in 2014 his popularity rating was around 95%. Israelis sat on hilltops eating popcorn while the massacre was occurring. Netanyahoo’s popularity dramatically plunged only when he stopped bombing, I guess the population was hoping for a final solution to they Palestinian “problem”.

    It is already too late. A one-state with equal rights for all people is the only solution and the one that Zionists created.

    • Zachary Smith
      June 10, 2017 at 3:27 pm

      A one-state with equal rights for all people is the only solution and the one that Zionists created.

      No, there is another solution which I expect the murderous Zionists to choose. That’s a final death march to a desert. Germany used that method (along with straight murder) to kill thousands to tens of thousands in Africa in the 1905 era. Turkey beat those numbers when they had death-marches-to deserts (along with straight murder) to kill tens to hundreds of thousands of Armenians. Israel is just waiting for an opening to set some new records.

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