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What's the big deal about a Knesset member acknowledging the occupation?

A Facebook post expressing shock and dismay about the occupation by new MK Adi Koll of the ‘centrist’ Yesh Atid party went viral over the weekend. Has segregation between Israelis and Palestinians become so entrenched in Israeli society that expressing empathy for Palestinians is a shocking aberration?

Palestinians wait to get through at checkpoint at the separation wall in Bethlehem [illustrative photo], (Photo: Activestills.org)

After reading MK Adi Koll’s Facebook status that Noam Sheizaf translated and posted, which has gone viral in both Hebrew and English since it came out Sunday, I paused and thought to myself: Why is this getting so much attention? What’s the big deal? Okay, a Knesset member posted a comment about how awful the situation is for a Palestinian friend of hers whom she visited in Ramallah, and how no photograph she posted could relay the dismal reality. But what’s so special about that? After all, isn’t it obvious there is an occupation here?

Obviously, the fact that Adi Koll is a member of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, which, despite being considered centrist, is essentially a pro-settlement, anti-two-state solution party, is significant. When MK Dov Khenin from the left-wing Arab-Jewish party Hadash points out the occupation, no one really cares.  When Amira Hass repeatedly reports on atrocities against Palestinians, she, along with Haaretz, is written off as spewing pro-Palestinian propaganda.

So my first instinct was that this MK is young and naive (she is 37), exposing on her official Facebook page that only now, after nearly a century of occupation and 65 years of institutionalized colonialism, is she realizing what the Israeli government is capable of. That she sounds like someone who just read David Grossman’s Yellow Wind for the first time (His 1988 Israeli best seller chronicling his travels in the West Bank every day for 40 days during the First Intifada). But I don’t know Adi Koll, have no idea what her experiences are, how long she has known her friend Amjad from Ramallah, or really anything about beyond this one Facebook status. And besides, the fact that her Facebook status got so much attention reflects less on her than the current atmosphere in Israeli society.

Many people, including several lefty friends on Facebook, commented encouragingly on her status, praising her for her courage, saying, “way to go,” and that they are “proud of her.” They expressed hope that other MKs would come out and say the same things and that Koll’s position isn’t jeopardized as a result of her doing so. (To get a sense of the contrast, a comment on the post that got 41 likes says that the photo she posted of rooftops in Ramallah is a perfect illustration of the rooftops from where Palestinians hide and shoot at Israelis.)

This outpouring of reactions struck me as amazingly sad in its sheer candor. Have we really gotten to a point where this basic assessment of reality in Israel and Palestine is what is being highlighted, sharply venerated and condemned?  The answer is yes. MK Koll’s status, which even mentions the complex issue of stone throwing and shows a tinge of the understanding that Amira Hass expressed in her controversial op-ed earlier this month, is emblematic of the deeply ingrained segregation between Israelis and Palestinians since the Oslo Accords, and specifically in the last decade, since the second Intifada and erection of the separation wall.

When Adi Koll was born in 1976, Palestinians from both the West Bank and Gaza constituted a substantial chunk of Israel’s labor force, coming in to the country for work on a daily basis. Israeli government ministers went to visit Palestinian refugee camps and villages regularly. Israelis didn’t need to either sneak in to or go on special organized tours of Ramallah or Jericho or Nablus – it was no big deal to go there. Palestinians and Israelis actually came into contact with each other much more fluidly.

By the time Adi Koll enlisted in the IDF in 1994, Palestine was divided into Areas A, B and C, and the only Israelis who Palestinians regularly came into contact with were settlers and soldiers. Ten years later, segregation between Israelis and Palestinians was cemented by the separation wall and institutionalized by Israeli legislative moves like the 2003 Citizenship Law. Ten years later, it was democratically manifested in an election that essentially made no mention of occupation or the two-state solution, voting in the most radical right-wing Knesset Israel has ever had.

So, the fact that MK Adi Koll – whose party chairman referred to all the Arab parties with whom he refused to cooperate as “Zoabiz” – has a friend in Ramallah, that she visited him and then openly and emotionally expressed her dismay at the situation, is in fact an anomaly in 2013 Israel. An aberration from the norm. Her Facebook status could have been taken right out of the 1980s – which isn’t a criticism of her, but rather a strong indication of just how much Israel has regressed. We are in a sad state of affairs when that defines the Israeli Zeitgeist.

Related:
New Knesset member visits a friend in Ramallah: ‘This is not normal’ 
Israeli occupation: You have to see it to believe it

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Kolumn9

      Actually it is a reflection of how much we have progressed towards the two state solution where the Palestinians and Israelis are complete strangers to one another. The whole point of Oslo and the two state vision is to create two societies where each is capable of living while ignoring the other as is the case with pretty much any other two countries in the world.

      One might recall that the previously existing situation that many people recall fondly where Israelis freely travelled and shopped in the West Bank and Palestinians worked in Israel was found wanting by Palestinian nationalists who demanded their own state. The separation was completed by Palestinian Islamists who saw all Israelis as legitimate targets and launched suicide bombings against Israeli civilians which led Israel to largely close off the Israeli job market to the Palestinians.

      Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Astonishing. With no action at all by Israel, the Palestinians just decided to abandon this idyllic state of affairs!

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Are you saying the Israelis are the ones that sought to change the status quo?

          Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            The status quo was Ottoman Palestine, and the “Israelis” have been trying to change it ever since, to make it all a Jewish state, preferably Arabenrein.

            And it wasn’t the Palestinians who wanted to change the status quo from no settlements on the WB to half a million settlers.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            That’s a nice bunch of Judeophobic lies.

            >The status quo was Ottoman Palestine

            Lie. Ottoman Palestine ceased to exist when Ottoman Turkey had lost WWI.

            >and the “Israelis” have been trying to change it ever since, to make it all a Jewish state, preferably Arabenrein.

            Lie. Just lie.

            >And it wasn’t the Palestinians who wanted to change the status quo from no settlements on the WB to half a million settlers.

            At the time there was no “Palestinians”, my little dishonest friend. Only Palestinian Jews, Palestinian Arabs, Palestinian Armenians, Palestinian Samaritans and others.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            If you want to go that far back the status quo was the Ottoman sanjak of Jerusalem and the vilayet of Beirut which had within its boundaries both Jews and Arabs.

            The status quo in 1987 was that Israelis and Palestinians both had complete freedom of movement and the Israelis constructed settlements in the West Bank. The Palestinians were the ones that decided that they wanted to change the status quo through an uprising and suicide bombings.

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          • aristeides

            Constructing settlements isn’t a static activity, K9. It can’t be considered status anything. It’s creeping annexation, which alters the status quo.

            And wrt the WB, the most appropriate quo ante has to be 1967. It wasn’t the Palestinians who started changing things then.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Constructing settlements was/is the status quo since 1967. Until 1987 so was Palestinian freedom of movement to/from Israel. Only one side decided they were unhappy with the status quo as of 1987 and it wasn’t the Israelis.

            In 1967 it was the Jordanians that changed the status quo by firing at Israeli positions from within the West Bank. As such 1967 seems an arbitrary status quo ante unless we are discussing Jordan taking over the West Bank again.

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          • aristeides

            If I’ve got a drip in my sink, K9, I’m not happy about it, but it may take me a while to get around to doing something about it, like when I realize the sink is going to overflow.

            The outbreak of resistance in 1987 wasn’t a sudden decision to by unhappy but recognition that it was time to do something about it. wrt the WB, the only conceivable point to fix a status quo can be 1967.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Indeed, and your current status quo is a dripping sink.

            The 1967 lines are arbitrary and at this irrelevant.

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            There’s nothing arbitrary about 1967, K9. One day Jordan ruled the territory, the next day Israel was there with its bulldozers, beginning the process of dispossession and replacing Arabs with Jews.

            It’s the clearest dividing point there could be.

            Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          There was no Israel in 1919 or in 1947.

          Yes. It is rather astonishing, how people could refuse to have a state.

          Unf***ingbelievable, I’d say.

          Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        You are being disingenuous, as usual. You know very well that the 2-state solution is as dead as the dodo, and that even the Americans (not to mention the Europeans) are preparing for the sad eventuality of the 1-state solution.

        Till then, what we have in essence in the occupied territories is a quasi apartheid regime that completely disenfranchises Palestinians from their most basic human rights (for example freedom of movement).

        This cannot and WILL NOT last for much longer, as we will eventually be forced to accept at least 2.5 million Palestinians (if we exclude Gaza’s 1.5 million) as equal citizens of Greater Israel.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          >You are being disingenuous, as usual.

          You are being idiotic, as usual.

          >You know very well that the 2-state solution is as dead as the dodo

          Nonsense. The 2SS is the only possible solution. There can be no one state solution under any terms.

          >and that even the Americans (not to mention the Europeans) are preparing for the sad eventuality of the 1-state solution.

          Nonsense.

          >Till then, what we have in essence in the occupied territories is a quasi apartheid regime that completely disenfranchises Palestinians from their most basic human rights (for example freedom of movement).

          Since basic human rights for Palestinians include the right to arbitrary kill Jewish/Israeli civilians, there is really nothing wrong with stripping Palestinians of all and any rights. Until they learn to coexist peacefully.

          >This cannot and WILL NOT last for much longer, as we will eventually be forced to accept at least 2.5 million Palestinians (if we exclude Gaza’s 1.5 million) as equal citizens of Greater Israel.

          Top notch idiocy. Granting citizen rights to 4 000 000 of Palestinian Arabs means that no right of return of any kind would be granted to all the rest. Not possible.

          Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          As counterintuitive as it might sound we are actually closer to a two state outcome (if not solution) than we have ever been. This is actually what the Europeans and the Americans are preparing – two states, no peace. The Palestinian Authority through its actions in seeking statehood and Hamas through its fundamental hostility to any peace with Israel, and obviously Israel with its absolute unwillingness to absorb the Palestinians are all pushing in that direction.

          What we have in essence in the West Bank is a government of a revanchist state that at this point has limited control over the territory that it claims. It displays no interest in actually being absorbed by Israel and represents a nationalist movement that is fundamentally built on a rejection of all aspects of a Jewish collective in Israel. And they are the *moderates* on the issue when compared with the positions of their biggest domestic foes. The idea that the Palestinians will transition their struggle into one for a single state is laughable.

          And all this before even going into the fact that the same approach that caused you to put Gaza into parentheses can be used with parts of the West Bank.

          Reply to Comment
          • Danny

            I didn’t put Gaza into parentheses, Israel did. I take it you’re alluding to the possibility that Israel will one day annex area C; that’s a sweet fantasy, but the moment Israel does that, it will get so much shit dumped on its head by pretty much everyone, that it won’t know where to begin to dig itself out. The fact is that if it were possible to annex any part of the occupied territories, Israel would have done it decades ago. The other impediment in this fantasy is the fact that area C still has a few hundred thousand Palestinians that would of course require citizenship.

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            I think you’re overly optimistic, Danny. When Israel annexes Area C, the whole world will declare the action “unhelpful.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            You are right. Israel put Gaza into parentheses and the world is pretty much accepting the construct.

            I don’t think we’ll be able to annex all of area C. We might annex everything west of the security barrier. If Arabs find themselves in Israeli territory we’ll give them citizenship. We can accompany the step with a unilateral abrogation of claims over other parts of the West Bank and a disengagement from large population centers. It will be sold as a brave move forward.

            You people have been promising that we would get buried in shit for years now and every time it turns out to be nonsense. We have free trade blocks with every major trade body and our economic performance over the past 12 years where there has been several wars and no movement on the political front has been stellar. The diplomatic isolation we were promised as far back as the 1970s is nowhere in sight and the worst practical step we are faced with is the labeling of certain products of ours as having been made in the territories which will dissuade 3% of European consumers who give a crap. I should remind you that we already annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan and Bennett is absolutely correct that the lack of recognition of these moves internationally has proven to be entirely without consequence.

            This hasn’t been done up to now because there has not been a need to do it. We control the West Bank and the costs of it are minimal while withdrawing poses major risks. If we are faced with rising costs of controlling the West Bank which outweigh the risks of some set of unilateral steps then the pendulum might shift. In the meantime the Palestinians and their international patrons are doing a wonderful job cementing the two state outcome as the only one that has any chance of occurring.

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            “If Arabs find themselves in Israeli territory we’ll give them citizenship.”

            Betcha not.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Why not? Wouldn’t be the first time.

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            Because Palestinians with a vote ARE the demographic threat.

            In 1948, there was a great deal of extermal pressure on Israel, as well as the terms of the partition agreement, mandating citizenship. But Isrealis figured that ethnic cleansing would have reduced the threat to acceptable levels.

            That was then.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            There are 160,000 Palestinians that got Israeli citizenship in the past 20 years due to marriages to Israeli citizens. That process has been stopped. Another 100,000 Arabs with Israeli citizenship isn’t really going to matter that much in changing the demographic balance if they get citizenship within the context of Israel setting permanent borders for itself.

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            “That process has been stopped.” Exactly. The whole point of the settlement project is Maximum Land, Minimum Arabs. That rules out any mass enfranchisement.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            The settlement project has always been about maximum land and minimum Arabs and yet many many Arabs have Israeli citizenship including those that got it in the past 20 years. Another 100,000 isn’t going to matter and most definitely not to the settlement movement.

            Reply to Comment
          • aristeides

            Giving Palestinians the rights of citizens would mean a great deal to the settlement movement. It would mean, for one thing, the right to shoot settlers coming onto their land.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >Giving Palestinians the rights of citizens would mean a great deal to the settlement movement. It would mean, for one thing, the right to shoot settlers coming onto their land.

            Nonsense.
            Granting citizenship does not automatically grant ownership of the land.

            Reply to Comment
    2. aristeides

      The big deal is the legitimacy of Israel. For Zionists, it’s a slippery slope. If any criticism of Israel is allowed, who knows how far it will go? Someone might eventually realize that the existence of Israel is itself the crime on which all the others rest.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Some had already realized that existence of Jews is itself the crime.

        Reply to Comment
        • aristeides

          Go exist somewhere else.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Just come anyplace near my existence, so could ensure that we won’t be sharing the same plane of reality ever.

            Reply to Comment
    3. I fear Koll will now have to endure an onslought of cultural policing; this happens as well among Palestinians, where rapproachment can be declared betrayal of the martyrs.

      I have a vague impression that the US plans to advocate an economic improvement zone for Palestinian controlled areas of the Bank, perhaps with rather open trade and investment between that and Jordan. How this would be viable if Israel can enter all Areas at will, as now, I do not see. “Security situation” trumps all, and that pronouncment can be made for immediate political economic reasons really rather tenuous to national security. I still see all roads leading to a de facto One State outcome, undesired by most.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >I still see all roads leading to a de facto One State outcome, undesired by most.

        That is because you have extremely poor understanding of the situation.

        Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        Security is something that only applies to Israel. Palestinians don’t deserve to live in security.

        Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          All Palestinian Arabs had to do to live in security is accept coexistence with Jews in 1919 or create own state in 1947, 2000 and on other occasions.

          However, they had chosen the path of death and destruction.

          Obviously, security is on on Palestinian Arabs’ agenda.

          Reply to Comment
        • Economic security is part of security. You are right. Which is why I fear an American proposal will go nowhere.

          Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        If the Jordanians are in charge of security in those areas then the IDF will have no reason to enter those areas. Notice that the IDF was not operating in area A before the second intifada which undermined any possible faith Israel had and could have in the Palestinians being able to run their own security.

        I think that most likely what the Americans have in mind is an explicit association between the PA and Jordan which lets the king of Jordan proclaim himself as guardian of al-Aqsa, grants the Palestinians access to Jordan and grants Jordan a major security role in the West Bank. Basically in this scenario everyone wins (including the Palestinians). What was missing until now was the motivation on the Jordanian side to go through with this kind of arrangement and a demand on the Palestinian side for a fully independent sovereign state. The Palestinians quite obviously are stuck right now with no good options and the king of Jordan needs to make a play for some more Islamic credentials to deal with the fallout of the Arab Spring (or whatever you want to call it). These kind of ideas will replace the idea of the two state solution on the basis of the 1967 lines going forward.

        Reply to Comment
        • aristeides

          Interesting that by “security” you still mean Israel’s security.

          And I can’t see that your solution, perenially beloved of Zionists, does anything for Jordanian security, either. Another Black September, anyone?

          Reply to Comment
        • A Jordanian controlled Bank (and whoever provides policing ultimately controls) would link many alienated Bank residents to Jordan. But Jordan is worried about its own internal stability against Arab electoral populism; the Muslim Brotherhood there boycotted the recent election, and less than a majority of voters came out in urban areas. The Bank will be seen as at least as potentially destabalizing as those urban areas. Jordan will refuse the gift of control.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            Don’t be so sure the Jordanians will refuse control. The royal family needs a shot of legitimacy which controlling al-Aqsa can bring.

            Reply to Comment
    4. Noevil9

      The shocking truth is any one daring to mention the imposed Israeli condition on the area as unjust,unfair or up normal. Israel and Israelis are and have been conditioned to disregard, or dispute any notion that they are commiting daily crimes against the Palestinians ,as an Anti Semitic move, or some sort of anti Israel move. What will happen in this case, is the MK member will be silenced in one way or another and disregarded as usual, and Israel will continue in its pathological path; Us against the world. We all know how that type of thinking will end.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >The shocking truth is any one daring to mention the imposed Israeli condition on the area as unjust,unfair or up normal.

        Imposed conditions are completely just, rather fair and absolutely normal from a historical perspective.

        “When Adi Koll was born in 1976, Palestinians from both the West Bank and Gaza constituted a substantial chunk of Israel’s labor force, coming in to the country for work on a daily basis. Israeli government ministers went to visit Palestinian refugee camps and villages regularly. Israelis didn’t need to either sneak in to or go on special organized tours of Ramallah or Jericho or Nablus – it was no big deal to go there. Palestinians and Israelis actually came into contact with each other much more fluidly.”

        It wasn’t Israelis idea that Palestinians should explode in buses, which led to alienation and creation of security infrastructure.

        Reply to Comment
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