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Avnery: Israel At 60

May 3, 2008

Israel is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Here in the United States it enjoys strong support from mainstream political and social organizations, from the media. Much work has been done to prop up, polish its image. I would expect that here in Colorado, the political class will be out to show their support for Israel as they have done for so many years. Perhaps in their remarks some of them will, gingerly of course and with many qualifications, mention `the word’ Palestinian. As usual, although I support Israel’s right to exist within its 1967 borders, I will not be among the celebrants, either in body or spirit.

Under the surface, all this hooplah is deceptive. There is much criticism, cynicism both about Israel’s 41 year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and how the state came into being in the first place. On what might be called a `grass roots’ level globally, Israel has lost a good deal of its moral capital. It reminds me in a certain way of the USSR in the 1930s. Although the rest of the world saw the situation clearly, only true believers could not admit to its dark side, a side that would eventually bring down the whole ediface. The Soviets managed to even celebrate their seventieth anniversary, but by then 1987, the whole structure which looked so impentrable just a few years before, was coming unglued. There would be no 75th anniversary (except in those circles who denied – and continue to deny – that the USSR had collapsed)

Indeed, the more I think about it, the more the parallels between Communism and Zionism are apt. Both communists and zionists hoped to build utopian societies, one based upon a workers’ state (or world), the other on an ethnic basis. Both built their utopias based on a historical experience of oppression and exploitation. Both, for difference reasons, turned sour rather early in their existence. Ofcourse the contradictions of communism caused its collapse – and while that collapse had many contributing features, I would argue that the Stalinist repression of the 1930s – the complete suppression of democracy in the country was prime among them. Israel is far from collapsing. It will continue as a nation state for sometime in the future, but the seeds of its undoing are there and growing stronger as is the levels of denial among its supporters.

But then ideology puts blinders on the best of us, whether it be the Marxist-Leninist or the Zionist variety. It forces us to exagerate the positives and to one degree or another deny the negatives. Criticism is seen as a threat to the very existence of the project. Perhaps it is. How else explain the high levels of denial of the facts of the situation.

For a number of reasons, among them the relative success of American Jewry to assiminate here in the United States (despite the tragedies in Nazi Germany and to some degree in E. Europe) and some of my own personal experiences and values, I have never been drawn to nor committed to Israel. The fundamental reasons are quite simple: That Jews, the overwhelming majority of whom never had any connection to the land called Israel have `a right of return’ while Palestinians who have lived there for centuries if not millenia don’t has always struck me as the height of moral hypocrisy. It still does. Israel’s genuine achievements are countered by its sixty years of war with its neighbors and its long term and unconsconable treatment of the Palestinians, which shows no signs of abating.

And despite a desire to put a positive spin on the possibility of Israel, the Palestinians and Israel’s Arab neighbors making some kind of viable peace – which I support – the prospects look grim. The balance of power has never been more unbalanced against the Palestinians, their movement is weaker and more splintered (mostly through US, Israeli and Arab regime machinations) than ever before. The current peace talks, although I would like to believe otherwise, are something approaching farcical proportions. They will produce nothing, maybe less than that. The conflict will go on for decades, probably more, or so it appears to me from where I am sitting.

Here in the United States, one of the great moral imperatives of the current period is to expose the injustice of the Israeli Occupation of the 1967 territories, to work for its end – including the dismantling of all illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories – and to work for a two state solution to the crisis based upon United Nations resolution and international law. Let us work for a solution so that the occupation does not last another forty, or thirty or twenty or ten years.

Once again, Uri Avnery, who in his youth fought for the Irgun to help establish Israel as a state, has a way of putting things together in an interesting if not profound manner. For his remarks click here

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