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When 'buying time' means one thing: More occupation

The lie about an alleged peace process does not end in Israeli schools or in the minds of Israeli soldiers in the occupation’s army; it is the pillar of international diplomacy, especially that of the United States. That is its true greatness.

By Noam Chayat

An Israeli soldier shoots tear gas into a crowd of Palestinian protesters in Hebron. March 31, 2013 (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

On June 6, exactly 46 years after Israel conquered the Palestinian territories, I came to talk to 50 high school students in a Waldorf school in the Galilee, on behalf of Breaking the Silence. The guard at the building’s entrance was an Arab woman; you can count on one hand the number of female Arab guards in Jewish schools. The teacher who asked me to come speak teaches Bible and basket weaving. As she took me on a quick tour of the school, it felt as free spirited as the Tel Aviv beach on a Saturday afternoon.

In Israel, the quality of a given school is determined – among other parameters – by the percentage of its students who go on to become combat soldiers. The larger the percentage, the happier it makes the Education Ministry and the school is rewarded with increased funding. However, this school being a private Waldorf school, it does not usually meet the government’s combat soldier-production expectations. And yet, only two months from now, these young people will be drafted into the IDF. Several of them will serve as occupiers, while many will indirectly serve the occupation.

The first student to enter the classroom was a young woman about to be drafted into the Border Police, notorious for its routine use of violence against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. She asked me whether I was going to scare her. Envisioning this innocent girl disdainfully glaring at a handcuffed Palestinian while her comrades beat him up was enough to bring me to tears. “No,” I replied. “I’m going to tell you a true story that has been kept a secret from you.”

I screened a film full of arbitrary violence directed at Palestinians at checkpoints in the West Bank. I read a soldier’s testimony to them, a young man who had previously believed it wouldn’t happen to him, yet realized he had become inhumane and as he described how he became “addicted to controlling others.”

I told them my story, how as an IDF officer in the Occupied Territories I went about terrifying the civilian population there. I told them about breaking into innocent families’ homes of in the dead of night, destroying private property, looting, humiliating and seizing private homes and vehicles. I encouraged them to imagine not being able to reach the hospital or their school because the randomly situated checkpoint near them is closed. I had a hard time convincing them of the existence of such checkpoints; most of the students think the only checkpoints are for Palestinians crossing into Israel from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. I told them about the procedure of “shows of force,” our assignment: intimidating the civil population just for the sake of it, or in military terms, making them feel hunted.”

One teenager asked, “but isn’t there a peace process underway? If they give us their weapons, we will immediately cease doing these things you’re telling us about and we’ll have peace, right? But if we disarm, they’ll kill us all, right?” Through his question, in blissful ignorance, this free, privileged and naïve young Israeli demonstrated how the normalization of the occupation prevails — the project of erasing the occupation from Israeli discourse, including the political discourse.

This same Israel has succeeded in raising generations of young people who liken the one-sided occupation imposed by Israel to the symmetry of war. The Israeli army, who will call up these young people I spoke with a few weeks ago, is called the Israel Defense Forces, although it mostly imposes law and order on the Palestinians rather than defending Israel’s borders. These young Israelis are convinced they live in a democratic state, plagued by a minor and easily repaired malfunction, namely the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Why should I criticize this ignorant high school student when he is simply parroting the way Prime Minister Netanyahu presents matters? Netanyahu is one of the architects of the absurd transformation that has successfully separated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the Israeli occupation and its military rule over Palestinians. Last month, the prime minister directed a remark to Palestinian President Abbas. “Give peace a chance,” he said; how cynical. While increasing control over Palestinian civilians through the use of arms, Israel encourages the leaders of the occupied side to discuss peace, meaning a cessation of fighting – fighting that is not taking place. Israel wants to talk peace without ending the occupation. It wants to normalize the relationship between occupier and occupied.

Undoubtedly, there will be much to discuss with Palestinian leaders after Israel ends its occupation, unilaterally, with no preconditions – withdrawing its army and citizens from beyond its internationally recognized borders. That will be the time to talk peace: distribution of water, mutual security arrangements, economic relations and trade, exact borders, reciprocal visa procedures, etc.

But the lie about an alleged peace process does not end in Israeli schools or in the minds of Israeli soldiers in the occupation’s army; it is the pillar of international diplomacy, especially that of the United States, and that is its true greatness.

Like his predecessors, Secretary of State Kerry is asking the Palestinians for more time in order to bring the Israelis to the table. That is exactly what Israel is – and for 46 years has been – asking the world for just a little more time. When mutual violence rocks our land, the extra time we want is granted without even an afterthought. “Quiet! We’re shooting,” we say. And when things are quiet, like now, Israel needs a simulated peace process to buy more time.

In that extra time Israel buys itself, there are improvements in the security and economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territories while Israel deepens its eternal status quo and its military rule over a disenfranchised people.

Noam Chayut is a co-founder of Breaking the Silence, and the author of The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust (translated by Tal Haran), published by Verso.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. The Trespasser

      “One teenager asked, “but isn’t there a peace process underway? If they give us their weapons, we will immediately cease doing these things you’re telling us about and we’ll have peace, right? But if we disarm, they’ll kill us all, right?””

      So what did the author answered? Told that teenager that Israelis can disarm and Arabs would do them no harm?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Kolumn9

      So, let me get this straight. In your view the way forward is for Israel to unilaterally withdraw into indefensible borders and only then would the Arabs talk about security arrangements? So, first Israel gets a few hundred rockets on Tel Aviv and on the international airport and then it’s leaders should start thinking and discussing the security arrangements?

      According to UNSC242 Israel will withdraw from territories in return for a permanent peace treaty that reassures Israel and grants her secure borders. This whole idea that Israel is obligated to withdraw from the territories unilaterally is first, nonsense, and second, absurd given that all previous efforts to do likewise have resulted in rockets landing on Israeli cities that were launched from areas that were withdrawn from.

      When the Palestinians accept that they are negotiating for the end of conflict and not in order to extract concessions in order to continue the conflict, then there will be peace. Until then there is very little to talk about and all peace talks are useless. Those that demand that Israel make further concessions while getting nothing in return only encourage the Palestinians to presume that they can indefinitely continue to receive concessions from Israel without ever having to accept that Israel’s existence is something that they will not eliminate.

      Reply to Comment
      • Gearoid

        I see this “indefensible” talking point quite often. Please explain it. Because if you can’t defend your borders from irregulars with a large army and all the money and weapons pumped in from the US, I can only assume it is incompetence. Israel is not at any great risk of a conventional war.

        I’m not going to bother with the rest of your textbook “evil Palestinians” nonsense.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          When an enemy army can set up artillery to target your single major metropolitan area and all major transportation infrastructure before a war even begins the borders are indefensible. When an enemy army can set up tanks that will split your country in half within 20 minutes the borders are indefensible.

          The argument about there being no conventional threat is often made by Americans (and others) at convenient junctures. During the 2008 negotiations Rice also suggested that there is no threat from the East because the US military would be in Iraq for a long time to come. Fast forward 4 years and there are no American soldiers in Iraq. Things change very fast in the region.

          The Palestinians are not evil. Presently the overwhelming majority believes that all the land belongs to them and that it is the overall objective of the Palestinian national movement to get control over all of it even if Palestinians need to suffer in the meantime. Setting up a state is a means towards that objective and even then only if it doesn’t prevent them from continuing the conflict on stronger terms. There is really no real other explanation for the rejection of all offers to set up a Palestinian state and end the conflict.

          Reply to Comment
    3. carl

      “let me get this straight. In your view the way forward is for Israel to unilaterally withdraw into indefensible borders and only then would the Arabs talk about security arrangements? “:
      This is what you want to believe in order to cope with your settler mentality. The exploitation of the OPT and the humiliation of millions of human beings by a foreign army do not have anything to do with “indefensible borders”. Wake up, immoral human being.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        Creatures who would rather kill their female relative than would let her mate with “wrong” male are not quite humans, with all due respect.

        Reply to Comment
        • Gearoid

          You sir, are absolutely disgusting.

          Even for such a narrow-minded supremacist, you seek ever greater levels of racist depravity.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >You sir, are absolutely disgusting.

            Yeah, right.
            Honour killings are not disgusting, but discrimination based on acceptance of such killings is disgusting.

            >Even for such a narrow-minded supremacist, you seek ever greater levels of racist depravity.

            Ad hominem attacks are are an inherent feature of a weak, dishonest mind.

            You see, I never claimed that “a particular race, species, ethnic group, religion, gender, sexual orientation, class, belief system or culture is superior to” any other.

            Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        It has everything to do with indefensible borders and the security threats that emanate from the withdrawal of Israeli forces from territories. Withdrawal from South Lebanon – rockets on the North. Withdrawal from Gaza – rockets on the South. Right now even the withdrawal from Sinai – rockets on Eilat. Withdrawal from the hills of Samaria – rockets on Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion airport. Wake up.

        Reply to Comment
        • Danny

          I would suggest that you wake up. In a few years from now, after even John Kerry and his ilk finally grow tired of the “peace process”, there will begin a huge and irresistible campaign to grant Palestinians equal rights in what will come to be known as Greater Israel (Israel + Occupied Palestinian Territories). When that happens, Israel will be forced to respect first Palestinian human rights, and then Palestinian civil rights. Israel will beg Palestinians to take the West Bank for their state, but it will be too late.

          Get ready for 60 Arab MK’s sitting in your knesset. That’s the future you have to look forward to.

          Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            You had forgot about the Gaza strip.

            You really should stop thinking – it would save you a lot of calories.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            I am awake. Your prophesy is nonsense. It has been nonsense for the past 40 years that the extreme left has been pushing it and it will be nonsense for the next 40 years. The only interesting thing about it is that it is suddenly considered somehow fresh and new. Go find Soviet bloc anti-Israel propaganda from the 1970s and you can just copy it into the pages of 972mag and mondoweiss word for word. That was back when there was a superpower directly behind the effort to organize a campaign against Israel. Now it is a minor coterie of extreme leftists bloggers who swim in an intellectual puddle together and think it is crowded.

            The worst case scenario is that Israel is forced to separate from some areas of the West Bank in the same way that it separated from Gaza. This is the option that the Palestinian face – either make peace with Israel or be isolated into Gaza-like enclaves and permanently ignored by Israel (and the world) except for the occasional military campaign during which time the ‘world’ will demand that Israel return to the status quo ante.

            Reply to Comment
        • Withdrawal from S. Lebanon – rockets on the north? For a month in 2006, otherwise withdrawal from S. Lebanon – 13 years of no rockets on the north. That’s because when we got out of Lebanon, we really got out, whereas when we “got out of Gaza,” we left a no-go/IDF firing zone inside their border, as well as a suffocating blockade on Gaza by sea, air and partially by land – not to mention our full occupation over the other part of the Palestinian territories, the West Bank. So the lesson is – end the occupation, no rockets; continue the occupation, rockets continue.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            How do you manage to combine 13 years of no rockets with an admission of hundreds of rockets falling on the North during a month in 2006? At best you can argue that there were 7 years without rockets falling. While at it, how many rockets fell on the North of Israel between 1982 and 2000? Something very close to zero if not zero. Correct?

            There are tens of thousands of rockets on the Northern border aimed at our cities. The argument that they will never be used would be somewhat silly given that hundreds have already have been used in 2006 by Hezbollah as a result of conflict that came after an unprovoked attack by Hezbollah on an Israeli position on the border despite the certification by the UN of an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.

            Now you may argue that Hezbollah doesn’t believe that the Israeli withdrawal was total, but then again wouldn’t that likely be the case for a large number of Palestinian terror organizations even if the ‘occupation’ as you define it does end? So, yeah, the lesson very much is that areas from which Israel withdraws will be used to store rockets that will be used to target Israeli cities because as far as large segments of the population on the other side is concerned the ‘occupation’ would only end when Israel does. Until that changes among the Palestinians and they are actually interested in fully ending the conflict there is no point in any further withdrawals except for purely tactical reasons.

            Reply to Comment
          • sh

            K9, how many rockets fell on Israel during its first 19 years of existence?

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            >K9, how many rockets fell on Israel during its first 19 years of existence?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Damocles

            “The Egyptian President Gamal Nasser did not want to rely upon the West or the Soviet Union for rockets, since such an arrangement would be inconsistent with Egypt’s policy of Cold War non-alignment. An indigenous rocket program was thus the only way Egypt could match the military technology of Egypt’s long-time enemy, Israel.[2] At the time, rocket technology was scarce in the Middle East, so Egypt had to look to European countries for material and expertise.”

            An answer: No rockets hit Israel during its first 19 years of existence because at the time neighbouring countries had no missile capability.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Withdrawal from Lebanon = rise of radical movement + multiple crossborder attacks.

            Withdrawal from Gaza = rise of radical movement + multiple crossborder attacks.

            Simple math, really.

            Reply to Comment
    4. mark

      I feel pity for you Trespasser, and the world of hatred that you created around you.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Aaron Gross

      The best way to persuade those who disagree with you is relate to them with contempt, hatred, arrogance, and condescension. At least, that’s what the author of this article seems to believe.

      Reply to Comment
    6. The Trespasser

      Oh, I see.

      Killing own female relatives is totally ok, but hating those who kill their female relatives is pitiful.

      Had anyone ever told you that you are an idiot?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Eilon

      Young Israelis understand that the Arabs seek to destroy Israel. There will be no more oslo, Itnatkut, appeasements etc. if anyone has to leave, it may be the after side.

      Expelling the Arabs is the ONE policy that we have NOT yet tried.

      Reply to Comment
      • miriam

        Eilon, you already tried it, and it worked quite well.
        Btw, what goes around comes around, if not in this life, in the next one. Wait and see.

        Reply to Comment
    8. I do not see in Chayat’s writing “contempt, hatred, arrogance, and condescension” (from Aaron Gross, above), but rather a human particularism which refuses to color the ongoing, daily lived costs of occupation as either the fault of those enduring them or the burden of a “people” unwilling to accept their place in the world. Rights break our greater ontological categories of “race” and “people.” Actual faced persons become more important than the abstract nation. This view will never predominate everywhere, but we need it to advance beyond our confrontations which always seem to be do to sin of the other side.

      If high school funding is proportional to inducted combat troops, then there is evidence that a war economy has infiltrated domestic polcy.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Gilmore

      All the talk of the “peace process” is just a smoke screen. Israel has no intentions of returning Palestinian land they have illegally seized, if that was their intention they would not build permanent Israeli only settlements on them allowing over 500,000 Israeli’s to illegally occupy that land.

      For every action there is a reaction! Israel began seizing and illegally occupying Palestinian land before the emergence of Hamas in the 1980′s. Hamas is the Reaction to Israels Aggressive Action. Led by disgruntled and fed up Palestinians who refuse to sit idly by while Israel spits in the face of democracy and freedom, values they claim sole ownership to in the middle east.

      Since 1967 Israel has breached 52 UN resolution, Geneva Conventions and numerous International Land Map laws. Yet it has never had sanctions imposed, or faced justice for these criminal acts. This neglect and non-action led by the US continually vetoing every proposed sanction and embargo against Israel has left the Palestinian with no other option but to fight this cruel and inhumane treatment of their people. Former US president Jimmy Carter said “Israels treatment of the Palestinian people is the worst example of human rights violations since apartheid” I think that about sums it up!

      Reply to Comment
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