Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Differences and Strategy

Thinking about the ethnic cleansing of Germans from areas which belong now to Russia, Poland and Tschekoslovakia there seem to be some similarities to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from large parts of Palestine.
But there are also differences:
Germany had just lost a war, which the German government had started and in which the German army and special units had committed terrible atrocities against the peoples whose country they were occupying.
While the first years after the war were difficult and hard on all Germans, especially on the refugees and deportees, after those years, when the country was rebuilt and economy grew, everybody became integretated in the process, including the people who had been driven out of East-Prussia, Schlesia and the Sudetenland. There also were paid some compensation money by the German government.
Because of all this, the acceptance of historical guilt, the economic integration and the policy of compensation, most of the younger generation of those people from former German areas accepted the loss and so did the next generations.
Nowadays there are extremely few people who actually even think about a return of these areas to Germany or of a return of Germans to these areas.

Policies were totally different in Palestine:
Palestinians had only defended their own land, homes and property and had never invaded other people´s countries or committed atrocities against them.
So, of course, they never had the feeling of being at least partly at fault for their predicament.
The refugees were never compensated for their loss, instead even their long history of living in Palestine for thousands of years was flatly denied.
The refugees never were integrated into the population of the countries which had taken them in, but many still have to live in seperate areas, refugee camps. They are often discriminated against and in some places have no legal rights or even legal passports to travel at will.
Worst of all, however, is the fact that the ethnic cleansing, the driving of people off their property and the destruction of their homes and the killing of people has not stopped and is still an ungoing process.
If the German people would have to live under similar conditions, they would never have accepted the situtiation either, historical guilt or not.
The question is, was there a chance or even is there still a chance, that Palestinians could or can accept their losses.
I recently read excerpts from the diary of Moshe Sharett, a Israeli prime minister in 1954 and 55. In there Sharett contemplated on an agreement with neighbouring Arab countries and even on matters of compensation, but his efforts were sabotaged by the hardliners Ben Gurion and others.
This made me think, that possibly in the 1950s there was a time, when there could have been made a compromise between a Zionist Israel, the Palestinian people and the neighbouring Arab countries.
Sure, compensations could never have made up for what was lost in homes, land and human life, but it would have helped the Palestinians to start a new life away from home. Compensations could have given the Palestinian economy within the rest of Palestine and in the neighboring countries a boost and would have helped Palestinians to establish themselves there.
For Israel it would not have been too hard to make those compensations really substantial. By making peace treaties with both the Palestinians and other Arab nations, Israel could have spent far less on military expenditure, so that part of German compensations and American aid could have been diverted to compensation for the Palestinians.

But then, when I tried to google those diary excerpts again, I found some other excerpts and they made me doubt, that there ever was a possiblity of compromise for the Palestinian people with Zionism.
On the Al-Bushra website of Arab American Roman Catholics I found this article about the Moshe Sharett diaries:
Here is an excerpt:

Sharett's diary, for 5/26/55 records the thinking of some of those who orchestrated Israeli attitudes and also influenced world opinion. The principal spokesman for the opponents of the possible peace was Dayan. And the diary reports:

"We do not need (Dayan said) a security pact with the U.S., such a pact will only constitute an obstacle for us. We face no danger at all of an Arab advantage of force for the next 8-10 years. Even if they receive massive military aid from the west, we shall maintain our military superiority thanks to an infinitely greater capacity to assimilate new armaments. The security pact will only handcuff us and deny us freedom of actrion, and this is what we need in the coming years. Reprisal raids which we couldn't carry out if we were tied to a security pact are our vital lymph. First (the reprisal raids) make it imperative for the Arabgoernmentsto tkae strong measures to protect the borders. Second, AND THAT'S THE MAIN THING, THEY MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR US TO MAINTAIN A HIGH LEVEL OF TENSION AMONG OUR POPULATION AND THE ARMY. Without these actions we would cease to be a combative people and WITHOUT THE DISCIPLINE OF A COMBATIVE PEOPLE WE ARE LOST....We will have to cry out that the Negev is in danger SO THAT ANGRY MEN WILL GO THERE."

Sharett then adds his own comments:

"The conclusions from Dayan's words are clear: This state has no international worries, no economic problems. THE QUESTION OF PEACE IS NON-EXISTENT. IT must calculate its steps narrow-mindedly AND LIVE ON ITS SWORD. It must see the sword as the main, if not the only instrument with which to keep its morale high and to retain its moral tension. Towards this end it may, no, IT MUST, INVENT DANGERS AND TO DO THIS IT MUST ADOPT THE METHOD OF PROVOCATION AND REVENGE....and above all, let us hope for a new war with the Arab countries so that we may finally GET RID OF OUR TROUBLES AND ACQUIRE OUR SPACE...Ben Gurion himself said it would be worth while to pay an Arab a million pounds to start a war."

Of course these diary entries are taken out of context, so that it is not quite clear to me, if Sharett did actually share the same opinions as Dayan or Ben Gurion or if he just interpreted their words. But since Sharret was only in power for a couple of years and everybody else in the Zionist movement seems to have been against even minimal compromises, his real opinion didn´t make a real difference one way or the other.
It seems quite obvious to me now, that even then, there never was a chance for compromise with Zionism.
The Zionist ideology does not allow for compromise, it only wants to overcome all obstacles towards its goals by the ruthless use of military power and by deceit.

But then, while Zionism surely has its roots in the "Jewish exceptualism-chosen people-eternal victim" narrative, I think we still have to make a difference between the opposition to Zionism and the opposition to Judaism or the Jewish people.
Just as you have to make a difference between the Nazi ideology and the German people, although the Nazi ideology does have its roots in some part of German culture.
And this is not just a matter of mushy heart, humanitarian, liberal thought. It´s a matter of strategy.
Here is another excerpt from the al-bushra article:

The eternal, Zionist dialectic again! If the people are not obsessed with fear, create conditions to frighten them. If there are no visible enemies - create them! Ignore any hand outstretched in friendship, for the friendship CAN DISSOLVE THE IDEOLOGY.

I agree with their view on this.
Zionism is an ideology built on fear and distrust of gentiles. Somebody like Gilad Atzmon, an ex-Israeli with a 100% Jewish background, might be able to do a total critizism of Judaism without doing harm. If non-Jewish persons do this, it might become counterproductive to their cause. Open hostility towards the Jewish People per se or the insistance that Judaism has no right to exist, will feed into those feelings of fear and distrust against the rest of the world and reinforce this Jewish national paranoia.
I don´t think, there is much hope to convert Ariel Sharon or other extremists away from Zionism, but I do think, it is possible with most of the ordinary Jewish people in the diaspora and even in Israel.
I think it is necessary to to find the words which make it quite clear, that the Zionist ideology is unacceptable to us, but that we still reach out in friendship to the Jewish people.

I know, that it sounds unfair, that we should tiptoe around the Jewish people, a people who is overrepresented in the media and in the economic, political and academic upper classes of western society. And given the terrible atrocities committed in Palestine and by proxy in Iraq and other places, it sounds even more unfair.
But then, only a minority of Israelis or diaspora Jews is personally responsible for those crimes. For most the only guilt they bear is the silence and failure to oppose those crimes. If we do not seperate between the Zionist ideology and the Jewish people, Zionism´s hold on ordinary Jews will become even stronger. The false believe, that Zionism is in the long run the only way of survival for individual Jews or the Jewish people, will be strengthened. Fear and paranoia can strangle logical thought and ordinary compassion for the suffering of others.
And this special paranoia is so dangerous exactly because the Jewish people are over-represented in the media and other influencial professions.
There needs to be a strategy to counter the paranoia.