Israel's bleak future


After thirty years of mystery, we’ve finally learnt the identity of Deep Throat. While most championed Mark Felt’s bravery in leaking vital information to Woodward and Bernstein, the writer, actor, economist and Beverley Hills lawyer Ben Stein argued differently in the American Spectator.

His complaint? ‘It’s been reported that Mark Felt was part Jewish At the same time that Mark Felt was betraying Richard Nixon, Nixon was saving Eretz Israel. It is a terrifying chapter in betrayal and ingratitude. If he even knows what shame is, I wonder if he felt a moment’s shame as he tortured the man who brought security and salvation to the land of so many of his and my fellow Jews. Somehow, as I look at his demented face, I doubt it.’

Thanks to Leahy

Thanks to Leahy

While Stein’s comments could be easily dismissed as fringe ravings, they point to a more fundamental discussion about Israel and its relationship to Jews throughout the world. Rule number one: Israel is to be defended, no matter what, and its government supported.

I’m exaggerating slightly, of course, but the media coverage of the impending Gaza withdrawal suggests that the West is more than happy to blindly repeat the spin emerging from Washington, Canberra and Tel Aviv. We are told that Israel will evacuate the roughly 8000 Jewish settlers, in a unilateral move designed to strengthen the Jewish state’s borders and assist in the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Noble aims, but facts on the ground prove otherwise. Take Israeli human rights group B’tselem’s report of March this year. It warned that ‘disengagement’ from Gaza will in fact result in the area becoming a large prison for the remaining Palestinians. The report illustrated ‘the extent to which Israel treats many fundamental human rights among them the right to freedom of movement, family life, health, education, and work as œhumanitarian gestures  that it grants or denies at will.’

Israel of 2005 is a state in crisis. During my recent visit to the country, I was constantly told that Israel was a democracy, if you were Jewish. In July 2004, the Israeli cabinet voted to extend a law that blocked Israeli citizenship from Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens. The real reason behind such racism can be found in Israel’s demographic time bomb. Within a few years, Jews are likely to become a minority in their own country, leaving Palestinians and Arabs in the majority. Israeli MP Ehud Olmert expressed it best: ‘It’s only a matter of time before the Palestinians demand œone man, one vote  and then, what will we do?’

Israel must make a decision. If it chooses to continue illegally occupying Palestinian land in the West Bank, it will be increasingly seen as an apartheid state. Dennis Brutus, Professor Emeritus at the Department of African Studies at a South African university, and long-time activist against apartheid in his own land, is calling on the world to institute similar measures against Israel as it did against South Africa.

‘Apartheid South Africa also acted with impunity’, he recently wrote. ‘It was supported by the West and let us not forget, by pariah states such as Israel and Pinochet’s Chile. It was only when people of conscience and organisations around the world pressured their own governments and multilateral institutions, did we see movement towards democracy in South Africa.’ Let’s look at the facts. A 2004 study released by the Mossawa Advocacy Centre for Arab Citizens in Israel found that thousands of Israeli Arab citizens suffered from increasing racism and xenophobia. A University of Haifa poll in 2004 concluded that a majority of the Jewish public 63.7 per cent believed the government should encourage Israeli Arabs to emigrate from Israel. The Sharon Government announced in late 2004 that it would build roads and tunnels for Palestinians in the West Bank, leaving existing roads reserved for ‘Jewish only’ traffic. Palestinian planning minister Ghassan Khatib explained how such moves were completely at odds with resolving the conflict: ‘Two communities living under different laws and regulations with different standards of living and road networks: this is what apartheid is all about.’

During her recent visit to Australia, former deputy speaker of the Knesset and human rights advocate Naomi Chazan revealed the moral bankruptcy of Israeli policies, supported by the US and Australian governments. ‘When you demolish the home of a family of a suicide bomber, you create fifty potential suicide bombers’, she said. ‘When you subject everybody to checkpoint searches you might catch one or two suspects, but you humiliate an entire population on a daily basis.’

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF), despite being called ‘the most moral army in the world’ by Sharon, does in fact engage in illegal behaviour in the occupied territories daily. In early June, two Israeli soldiers came forward to describe how they’d taken part in what they called an officially ordered ‘revenge’ operation to kill Palestinian police officers, some of whom were unarmed. Such alleged crimes are not an exception, as pro-Israeli supporters claim; they fit a consistent pattern of an institution which is above the law. An IDF reservist exposed the real culture of the organisation in Haaretz in May this year: ‘The IDF will never want peace, for there is no profit in real peace, and I know what I’m taking about after spending thirty years in the IDF.’

Israeli group Peace Now released a report in June that proved settlement construction in both Gaza and West Bank continues. Illegal outposts are appearing, with the implicit support of the Israeli authorities, in a blatant attempt to consolidate Jewish control on Palestinian land, making any future negotiations on land division almost impossible.

Peace Now explained: ‘Most of the construction is planned in co-ordination with the government’s published plans for the [ œsecurity ] fence, so that the buildings will stay within Israeli hands. This is a blatant attempt of the government of Israel to try to force upon the Palestinians a new boundary in the West Bank. This boundary will annex over 10 per cent of the West Bank to Israeli hands. Meanwhile there is construction on a smaller scale in the settlements that will remain outside the current fence boundaries, and include additional bypass roads. It is clear from the current government’s statements that Sharon’s plan for the West Bank is to œsave  the settlement blocs this can account for the flourishing development and construction taking place throughout the West Bank today.’ Dr Ron Pundak, Director General of the Peres Centre for Peace, argues that Sharon and Hamas have a joint interest. How? ‘They are both against deliberations on a permanent status agreement that would bring about a final treaty between Israel and a Palestinian state.’

It was only three years ago that President George W. Bush called Sharon a ‘man of peace.’ That Western-centric delusion remains to this day. I constantly hear that only a man of the Right, such as Sharon, can bring peace to the region. Nothing could be further from the truth. Israeli journalist and peace activist Uri Avnery wrote in 2004: ‘Don’t pay attention to what he [Sharon] says, pay attention only to what he does.’

Sadly, much of the Australian media prefers to report the former. The reasons for this are myriad, but not least of which is the fact that virtually all Western journalists covering the conflict are based in Israel proper and rarely travel to the occupied territories. Their perspective is therefore heavily pro-Israeli and results in a misunderstanding of Palestinian life and culture.

This week’s Australian Jewish News features a letter by some members of the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. It is a plea for understanding among Jews who refuse to see reality in Israel and prefer mouthing easily digestible platitudes, such as ‘There is no partner for peace’ and ‘God gave us this land.’ I’ve heard both comments regularly during the research for my upcoming book on the conflict.

If Israel and its supporters continue to delude themselves into believing American support will continue, no matter what crimes the Jewish state commits, the future of its liberal democracy, already severely strained, is guaranteed destruction.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.