Monday, 31 May 2010

Eternal Madness of the Spotless Mind

I am not sure when the current government of Israel entered its state of entrapped madness. It may have been in March, when embarrassingly the Interior Ministry (under the direction of Eli Yishai) announced 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem exclusively for its Jewish population. Perhaps it was just two weeks later when Israeli PM Netanyahu visited the White House amid even more illegal settlement expansion plans. It might have even been way back in 1975, as newly released documents from South Africa show how the Israeli Defense Minister (now Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres) offered nuclear weapons to an apartheid South Africa.

Today, however, marks a new level in utter madness when Deputy FM Danny Ayalon called an international aid flotilla - organized by the Free Gaza Movement - an "Armada of hate and violence" that perpetrated a "pre-mediated, outrageous provocation." This of course after the brutal commando-style raid on the seaborne convoy which has led to the death of nearly 20 activists with dozens of more wounded. The convoy at the time was attacked was 60-65 km off the coast of Gaza -- i.e. in international waters. Both Israel and Egypt have been complicit in maintaining a siege of Gaza that has prevented its residents from rebuilding, one that UN Secretary-General called "unacceptable." It is a blockade that prevents any importation beyond basic humanitarian goods. You can view some UN reports for a sample of the devastation to the territory's infrastructure, agriculture, and health systems.

Amidst all the minutiae, the accusations in both directions, the statements of misdirection, we lose sight of some very simple and important facts. The Palestinian territories are still occupied and have been so for over 43 years. There is no such thing as a Palestinian state. That means millions of Palestinians are being denied self-determination. A resident of Ramallah in fact has no country. It is very likely that his father has no country. It is even more likely that his son has no country. Yet, each day there is new settlement activity encroaching on the possibility of a two state solution. Simply click here to look at this interactive map on the Wall Street Journal. 

None of this absolves Hamas of complicity in the murders of civilians through the 1990s. It does not excuse the obstinacy of Arab leaders in the 1950s. It does not alleviate blame from Egypt for continuing a blockade against the Strip. It does not acquit Arafat for his foibles at Camp David in 2000. It does not ignore the very real threat of terrorism that does and will continue to exist against the Israeli state.

Nevertheless, all of that does not change the fact that it is inconsistent for any modern democracy to hold dominion over 3m people without affording them rights and protections. Marc Regev, Israel's premier spokesperson, and other spin-masters can attempt to superimpose a false truth in public discourse, whether it's that aid activists are Al Qaeda affiliates or that Jerusalem offers equitable housing options to its Arab residents. In fact, Lieberman and his ilk may yet stave off any UN Security Council action for this latest incident, delay Mitchell's mission further, and continue the colonization of the West Bank. However, it is only a matter of time before there is a solution. The Israeli government would be mad to wait until such a solution is imposed either from outside -- like in East Timor -- or from inside, like in South Africa which led to a unitary state. What Israel needs to realize is that in these scenarios there will be no quibbling over settlement construction in a West Bank outpost: there will be much more to lose at stake. As always, time is ticking.

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