Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, dispenses with illusions in his reading of the likely historical consequences of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s move to annex up to 30% of the occupied West Bank. Israel is expected to unilaterally proceed with the announced annexations of Palestinian territory in the name of implementing the Trump administration’s “deal of the century.” The deal purports to implement what was once called the Middle East peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians. It might be more accurate to call it a “piecemeal process” aimed at producing apartheid-inspired Bantustans.
Despite the Palestinians’ categorical rejection of the Trump administration’s plan — or rather because of it — Netanyahu announced that annexation would begin on July 1. Sensing that this will only be possible so long as US President Donald Trump remains in the White House, Netanyahu saw this as possibly his last opportunity to settle Israel’s perennial conflict with the Palestinian people on his own terms.
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Faces Its Most Consequential Decision in Decades
Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, claims that the value of annexation lies in it being a fear factor. Netanyahu simply wants to finalize a fait accompli. Kushner believes that it’s the threat, not annexation itself that could persuade the Palestinians to join the Israelis at the negotiating table. The Palestinians see nothing in the peace plan that even permits negotiation.
Bishara points to the hypocrisy of maintaining the idea that this is part of a negotiation process. He observes that “thanks to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s right-wing politics, the ‘peace process’ has been exposed for what it is – a colonisation operation.”
Here is today’s 3D definition:
Any slowly unfolding plan to humiliate another people conducted with the idea that if it is done gradually enough, the oppressed will not notice the deliberate and cynical humiliation to which they are being subjected
As of Wednesday evening, July 1, the date planned to begin the operations of annexation, Israel had failed to make its first move. Al Jazeera reports that this may be “a sign of rifts within the [Israeli] coalition over the timing of any unilateral annexation move, which has been fiercely opposed by the Palestinians and most of the international community.” Nobody seems to know whether annexation will happen soon, gradually or be delayed indefinitely. Benny Gantz, the alternative prime minister and defense minister, has suggested that annexation should be delayed at least until the coronavirus crisis is resolved, a suggestion that would make putting a date on it even more uncertain.
The international outcry against Netanyahu’s plan for annexation has been close to unanimous. The obvious exception is the US, a nation that for decades prided itself on its ability to play the role of “honest broker.” The absurdity of that claim, which never held water, became limpidly clear when Trump appointed two Zionists — Jared Kushner and David Friedman — to draft the “peace plan.” The two men agree that annexation must be part of the plan, but, according to David M. Halbfinger and Michael Crowley in an article for The New York Times, a rift has emerged between them concerning implementation. Kushner maintains that by acting too quickly, annexation loses its leverage aimed at getting the Palestinians to the negotiating table. His stance may help to explain Netanyahu’s hesitation.
Just as past US administrations cleverly rebranded torture with the more dignified name of “enhanced interrogation,” the kind of intimidation that Kushner believes annexation represents could be euphemized as “enhanced negotiations.” Like economic sanctions, it’s just another way of imposing extreme suffering on a population supposedly to get its leaders to talk.
The Times article asked this pertinent question: “Is the prospect of annexation a pressure tactic to get the Palestinians to engage with the administration’s peace plan, or is the peace plan just a smokescreen for annexation?” Though the answer seems obvious, the authors do not attempt to answer their own question.
Bishara sees through the smoke and focuses on what the future may look like. Beyond the obvious anguish, conflict and bloodshed that annexation will breed, he says “the Palestinians will have no choice but to drop the goal of a mini-state on one-fifth of their homeland, and struggle for equal rights in the entirety of their homeland, seeking freedom from Israeli control and justice after decades of dispossession.”
Once both the two-state hypothesis and the illusion of the “deal of the century” disappear from the purview of negotiations, Bishara sees a protracted civil war whose outcome in the long term will be inevitable. “If Israel devours all of Palestine, it will be a matter of time before Israel becomes Palestine,” he writes. According to The Times of Israel, a lot of Israelis may sense the same thing as 47.1% have expressed their disapproval of annexation while only 32.2% support it.
Historians have coined two technical terms that describe the reality of Israeli today: colonization and apartheid. Marwan Bishara cites both of them. The Israelis adamantly refuse to apply either of the terms to their context. Nevertheless, when compared to well-documented cases in history, those categories accurately reflect the current situation, even before formal annexation.
Even if the Palestinians were to accept Jared Kushner’s peace plan — as former US Ambassador Gary Grappo speculated could happen in an article on Fair Observer — the result would be remarkably similar to the geographical organization of South Africa’s classic apartheid before its abolition in 1991, and just as racist and unjust.
As for colonization, an art form Europe honed for over five centuries, Israel’s case is clearly different, but the outcome is similar. European colonization targeted every continent across the globe. It did not principally aim at establishing European populations to rule over other people’s lands. Instead, it focused on economic exploitation. Nevertheless, rule over local peoples turned out to be one of its prominent effects. Along with political control came the insidious mission of undermining and overturning local cultures to bring them into conformity with the colonists’ values and institutions.
This last point underscores a topic few are willing to discuss, but which deserves consideration at a point in the West’s history when the supremacy of the European tradition and the white race has finally been called into question. The reasons that Western nations have vowed loyalty to Israel are complex but, at the core, it is their perception of Israel as an outpost of white European culture in a land of people not up to our level of civilization. They may no longer be deemed “savages,” but today’s Gullivers and Houyhnhnm statesmen continue treating them like Yahoos.
The tragic irony in this, from a Western perspective, is that having effectively dismantled its own colonies and celebrated the end of apartheid in South Africa, the West allows itself to be in denial about the colonial and apartheid nature of Israeli politics. And it’s often more than denial. It can take the form of complicity when, in the UK, for example, making that very observation can lead to being branded as an anti-Semite. Beyond that, it leads to political ostracism, as Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and others like him have seen.
In the US, criticizing Israeli politics has long been deemed a moral fault and equated with the crime of taking a knee during the national anthem. No politician would dare attempt it. But, in recent weeks, the policy on kneeling has suddenly and radically shifted. So, it seems, has the policy of a majority of Democrats with regard to annexation. A total of 191 Democrats have condemned it and a smaller number, led by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have threatened to call into question the generous military aid Washington reflexively pours on Israel.
2020 has turned into a year not only of monumental surprises but also of enduring suspense. The critical decisions that will affect the future of the planet are in the hands of men in the West named Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu, Boris Johnson and Jair Bolsonaro. Not necessarily the best references for those interested in stability. With Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi and Vladimir Putin on the Eastern side, it is somewhat different though hardly more reassuring. Democracies at least being what they are, some of those names may soon change. Whether that turns out to be part of a world peace process remains to be seen.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news. Click here to read more of The Daily Devil’s Dictionary on Fair Observer.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.