Saturday, 1 December 2012

It's just a fence!

The news of an outbreak of violence in Gaza with the Israeli Defence Forces was not much of a surprise for anyone. It mobilised some to protest outside the Israeli embassy in London, while others joined the counter-demonstration further down the road, the vast majority of people probably languished in passive ignorance to the history of the crisis. The wars waged to establish and expand the state of Israel surprise no one with a modicum of knowledge of the history of the nation-state. Like childbirth the founding of a state is repressed precisely because it's so traumatic. The majority of states in the world were either founded in violence and have been perpetuated through violence in way or another. So it should surprise no one that the state of Israel was founded out of a theft - what Palestinians call the Nabka - in which 700,000 people were expelled from their land and their villages were destroyed to make way for a new country. And we can safely say, in retrospect of six decades, that expansionism is inherent to the state-founding project.
Expulsion from the land was the only way that the state could be established. It was necessary given that at the time Mandate Palestine consisted of a population that was 95% Muslim and Christian Arab. Today the millions of descendents of those Palestinians who were first displaced in 1948 are scattered around the world. The largest concentration outside of Israel and the occupied territories is in Jordan, where Israeli nationalists argue the Palestinians really belong. Part of the problem is the ambiguity of where Israel’s borders actually end. If the international borders are disregarded (which they are inside Israel) then the eastern frontier of the country reach across the Jordan River and that would mean Jordan can be absorbed as well. This is the irony of the nationalist line that the Palestinians should go live in Jordan. Originally the border was meant to be at the Alawi River in the middle of Lebanon. Until the borders are clarified and set at the internationally recognised limit, which is at 78% of what was once Mandate Palestine, then there won’t be peace.
The UN vote to bestow non-member observer status on Palestine demonstrates that the Palestinians are hungry for a peaceful settlement. Incidentally, Palestine now shares the same status of statehood as the Holy See. This is contrary to the picture that the Israeli Right put forward of murderous rabbles of Arabs too bloodthirsty to settle for anything less than the demise of the Jewish state. Yet it is the Israeli government that won't budge on the question of settlements and 60% of the West Bank already consists of Jewish settlements. That's a major obstacle to a two-state settlement if Palestine is meant to be constituted by 100% of the West Bank. Then there's the wall of annexation that has been extended around arable land and resources in the West Bank. This wall is called a 'defensive barrier' in Israel, which is what the Berlin Wall was called in East Germany. It gets even more absurd, in the US media the wall is called a 'fence' and it's longer than the Berlin Wall. I guess you must be a Nazi if you don't see an enormous concrete wall as a white picket fence.

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