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Opposing the occupation means being anti-Israel, to Netanyahu

The Israeli right has worked very hard to erase any distinction between Israel and the occupation — between Ariel and Acre, Hebron and Haifa. Ironically, this is the same thing he accuses Palestinians of trying to do.

A view of the West Bank settlement of Ariel. (Gili Yaari/Flash90) The approximately 600,000 Israelis who live in occupied territory beyond the Green Line comprise nearly 10 percent of Israel’s Jewish population.

A view of the West Bank settlement of Ariel. (Gili Yaari/Flash90) The approximately 600,000 Israelis who live in occupied territory beyond the Green Line comprise nearly 10 percent of Israel’s Jewish population.

Since B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad spoke at the UN Security Council a week ago calling for an end to Israel’s half-century old occupation, the organization has been subject to vicious attacks and delegitimization, including by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. El-Ad’s very citizenship has been threatened by a senior member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, and thousands of Israelis have incited against him, including death threats. None of this incitement has been condemned by anyone in Israel’s ruling coalition.

Anticipating much of the backlash, El-Ad went on record throughout the Israeli press just 24 hours after his appearance in New York to clarify why he went to the UN: “I didn’t speak against my country, but against the occupation.” On the face of it, such a distinction seems fairly simple. The director of Israel’s largest human rights organization is lobbying for his country to stop policies that violate human rights, to stop exerting systemic violence against a people with no rights; in short, to stop holding the Palestinian people under military occupation.

To the establishment, that makes him subversive, unpatriotic, and anti-Israel. Contrarily, being pro-occupation and pro-settlements is indisputably pro-Israel as far as many Israelis and politicians are concerned. No one questions, for example, the patriotism of those – both in Israeli government and civil society — pushing to retroactively authorize settlement outposts built on private Palestinian land that even the government says are illegal. Nobody questions the patriotism of those who want to illegally annex the West Bank without the consent of the Palestinians who live there.

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

Palestinian women wait to pass through an Israeli military checkpoint in Bethlehem leading to Jerusalem to pray at al-Aqsa Mosque, (File photo: Activestills.org)

The message being propagated by Netanyahu and his government, and unchallenged by the majority of Israelis, is clear: fighting to end occupation and fighting for Palestinian human rights is not only slandering the country, it’s tantamount to treason — as far as they are concerned speaking out against occupation is the same as speaking out against Israel. This type of tactic works well to deflect criticism and silence dissent by delegitimizing the critic. Applied long enough and to enough people, such tactics set a precedent for seriously curtailing free speech and political dissent; it is no wonder the U.S. came out in defense of B’Tselem and free speech and why the organizations donations have increased  tenfold since. 

That’s how precedents work: the more Netanyahu and his ideological kin push that line, the more speaking out against occupation will in fact become synonymous with speaking out against Israel. I would argue it is already impossible to separate the two.

That is exactly what Netanyahu is after. He and the Israeli right have worked very hard over the years to make sure there is no daylight between Israel and the occupation — to erase any difference between Ariel and Acre, Hebron and Haifa. Ironically, this is the same thing Netanyahu accuses Palestinians of trying to accomplish. But the truth is, any distinction between the Israeli state and the occupation of the Palestinians has long been erased.

As professors Ariella Azoulay and Adi Ophir wrote in their 2008 book, The One State Condition:

The Occupation, essentially a provisional state, has evolved into a permanent ruling structure, which seeks to remain just what it is: an Israeli occupation regime. Its ‘temporariness’ lends this structure its legitimacy, at least in the eyes of most Israelis, as well as most Americans, because it is utterly impossible to reach agreement on either of the two opposed states that might replace it.

What Hagai El-Ad and the entire Israeli anti-occupation human rights community in Israel are saying and doing poses such a threat to the Israeli establishment because ending the occupation does in fact undermine the existence of what the State of Israel has become today — a state that is synonymous with occupation.

To decouple Israel from its occupation of Palestine would require the complete dismantling and overhaul of Israel’s state institutions, culture, economy, and infrastructure. It would require a fundamental restructuring of Israeli society, transforming it from one that controls another population to one that strives to upholds equal rights for everyone living under its control.

Such a process frightens many Jewish Israelis, including those in the so-called opposition, because it means losing certain privileges a Jewish state affords them. For that reason, the most basic, simple and understandable demand at the frontier of Israeli dissent today — ending the occupation — is also the most complex, subversive, and dangerous.

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    1. Bus189

      No Mairav, what is subversive is that behind the demand to end the occupation is the demand to eliminate Israel and leave the Jews without a state to defend themselves from the ravages of the Middle East. I appreciate that you are so explicit that this is what lies behind the demands to end the “occupation”. Others are more circumspect about openly endorsing the elimination of Israel because it exposes their political activism and goals and thus undermines their influence on Israeli society which justifiably sees the State of Israel as their means of survival.

      I also find it amusing that you accuse the Israeli right of trying to erase the difference between Haifa and Hebron given that this has also been the focus of European-funded far-left activism in Israel. The goals are obviously different but the narrative is effectively the same – there is no difference between Haifa and Hebron and so there can be no peace without eliminating the Jewish state. The far-left uses it as reasoning to justify eliminating the Jewish state. The far-right uses it as reasoning to avoid even trying to make peace. The Jewish state exists and it is rather stable. Peace is nowhere in sight. Draw your own conclusions about which side is making best use of this narrative.

      People that warmly embrace El-Ad in the far-left like you are doing far more to delegitimize him than anything Netanyahu can do. El-Ad might be a patriotic Israeli that believes that an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank is the best thing for the survival of the Jewish state. When he is endorsed by people like you however very few people will believe him. Sooner or later the European funding that allows this silly far-left echo chamber to continue operating will be closed off and then your whole ideology will be consigned to its rightful place in the darkest corners of Israeli society and the safe spaces of Western college campuses.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        “Commanders For Israel’s Security”


        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        The “argument” of Bus189 of course depends on a persuasive defense of the proposition that “behind the demand to end the occupation is the demand to eliminate Israel” and that its “survival” is at stake, that the occupation of West Bank is strategic and enhances rather than undermines Israeli security. Bus189 offers no such defense. Of course, very many very highly placed Israeli defense experts argue that the opposite of Bus189’s proposition is the case. It always amazes me: the right wing public worships the IDF exactly right up to the point where the IDF questions the occupation and questions the crimes soldiers commit, and then the very same soldiers and generals and defense experts are dismissed as “just one guy’s opinion.”

        Reply to Comment
        • Bus189

          Don’t put words in my mouth. I made no such claim about the West Bank in this particular argument. I certainly can, but I did not.

          The claim in that argument is that behind the demand to end the occupation people like Mairav hold goals that consist of eliminating the nation state of the Jewish people. Within Israel that undermines the legitimacy of any positions held by such people and delegitimizes those people (like El-Ad) and organizations they support.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ray

            So I take it you’re capable of telepathy, given you seem to be very confident in your belief that anti-occupation activists secretly want to get rid of Israel. Are you Uri Geller?

            Reply to Comment
          • Bus189

            The last two paragraphs make the author’s position pretty obvious. I am perfectly willing to help you get better at reading comprehension if you are having a hard time.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Don’t put words in my mouth.” Excuse me? I quoted you directly.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bus189

            My argument here had no logical relation to the premise that “the occupation of West Bank is strategic and enhances rather than undermines Israeli security”.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            You know you can go all “logical” and analytical on this, Bus189, but in fact your argument traffics in a lot of un-logical insinuation and inference making. Then when people connect the dots you argue that all along you were a strict logician. At the same time you boast you can make the argument you didn’t make, which is something like an endorsement of the argument you didn’t make. In any event, an insinuation such as “people like Mairav hold goals that consist of eliminating the nation state of the Jewish people…that undermines the legitimacy of any positions held by such people” is the purest slander, vilification, delegitimizing–all the crimes the Israeli Right sees in everyone else but itself.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      That picture of Ariel sitting, by design, smack in the heart of the West Bank, is the picture worth a thousand words backing up Mairav’s argument (and refuting Bus189’s). And that picture of that brutal wall in Bethlehem is the picture illustrating the cruelties necessary to sustain that expanse of well-watered lawns, swimming pools and subdivisions. You know it’s amazing, right wingers bitterly whine about the supposed largesse (a pittance, relatively) outside do-gooders bestow upon hard-pressed Palestinian peasants in the territories outside these royal gates, yet look at the sumptuous conditions outside funding* buys for these “hardy pioneers.”

      Reply to Comment
    3. Giora Me'ir

      The Israeli right are fascists. Always have been.

      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        Let’s see.

        If Israel tries a negotiated solution to end the occupation, we got what Barak got, a demand to allow the “return” of millions of descendants of Arab refugees. That would certainly mean the destruction of the only Jewish state in this world.

        If Israel unilaterally ends the occupation, at the least, we will get what we got after we unilaterally got out of Gaza. Tockets!

        If we keep on going as we are going, we get what we are now getting but at least the Palestinians too will have an incentive to resolve this, in the future, by compromising.

        So, never mind about what some more weak minded Israelis advocate. Be they well meaning or otherwise, our best-bad option is the status quo. In other words we select the best of a bad lot of all of our options. Hey, that’s life. We will meet this challenge too.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Nope. As is well known, you get a negotiation towards a mutually agreed upon solution to the refugee situation in the context of an end of conflict/final status accord. What’s so scary about that?

          You repeat a well worn pattern here–veritable wagon ruts in the online mud by now–perseveration of various fearsome incantatory words–‘elimination’, ‘destruction’, ‘survival’, ‘existential’, ‘…’–out of all proportion to the true problems you face.

          Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “Nope. As is well known, you get a negotiation towards a mutually agreed upon solution to the refugee situation”

            Well known huh? Ok then, Ben might read the paragraps below which I copied from Al Jazeera. And then, since Ben talks about “well knowns”, Ben might show us how the negotiations might progress fruitfully from the current position of the Arabs which Al Jazeera clearly enunciates. Because I can tell Ben that such a position would not be acceptable to MOST Israeli Jews.

            AL JAZEERA
            “It has been argued that Resolution 194 is ambiguous, but subsequent resolutions affirm that Palestinian repatriation is a matter of right. Resolution 3236 refers to the: “Inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted.”

            On the other hand, the Israelis demand that the refugee issue be resolved on the basis of external resettlement and the annulment of the right of return.

            The passage of time, rather than reducing the importance of the refugee situation, has made it all the more urgent due to the growth of the diaspora and decades of inaction. Neither time nor space constitutes genuine obstacles to their return – but both have been used as arguments against repatriating them.

            However, research shows that 77% of Israel’s Jews live in only 15% of Israel’s area. And, as any Palestinian will tell you, the time spent away from home only makes the yearning to return stronger.”

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “words–‘elimination’, ‘destruction’, ‘survival’, ‘existential’, ‘…’–out of all proportion to the true problems you face.”

            Then maybe Ben might explain to Israelis like me how he thinks that the Jewish state might survive (emphasis on JEWISH state) if any Israeli government would allow the “return” of millions of descendants of Arab refugees. Does he think that another majority Arab state, which Israel would then become, would tolerate the idea that such a state would be a Jewish state?

            By Jewish state, I mean Judaism is the official religion of the state. That the state would encourage Jewish immigration, Jewish holidays would be the official holidays. Schools would teach Jewish history, Hebrew would be the official language of the state, etc.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “if any Israeli government would allow the “return” of millions of descendants of Arab refugees”

            See my first reply, above.

            “By Jewish state, I mean…”

            That’s what you might mean—and what you might mean contains all sorts of problems in itself—the 25% who are non-Jewish get what complementary elements of this package?—but it is not what Bennett and Shaked and Eli Dahan and Netanyahu mean or at least no one should assume they mean even what you mean even if they professed they did, and their behavior says otherwise loudly, and what safeguards, checks and balances exist? The American Founders would laugh at your assurances that “it will be all right.” They knew better. You incessantly throw around these code words that do not rise above that. You endlessly throw around “Jewish State” as if it were self-evident what it really means and will mean for real people but it is not clear at all and quite dubious and even ominous, and Israel’s behavior and the entire history of humanity should ease no one’s mind on this score. You never answered my several “Italian State, Italian/Roman Catholic state” questions on the “It’s 2016” thread. I am not surprised.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Clarification: By “my first reply, above” I mean the post of today that ended up below, beginning with “Well. Your tendency to deploy the “the Arabs” blanket term stands in high relief…”

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Oh and I might add another important purpose for having a Jewish state.

            During the Nazi persecutions, Jews had nowhere to flee because no one wanted Jews.

            Had there been a Jewish state in existence in the 1930s, many more Jews would have been saved. The existence of the Jewish state of Israel today, ensures that such a situation will never occur again because Israel is there to accept Jewish refugees if the need for it arises.

            Would an Arab majority state allow that?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “an Arab majority state”

            And yet you have the only “Jewish majority state” solution staring you in the face, the two state solution based on well-known parameters, and you go squeamish when it is served up to you on a silver platter. (Re your standard “unlimited RoR” obfuscation, see my answer to you, above.)

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Well. Your tendency to deploy the “the Arabs” blanket term stands in high relief. The opinion of one Abdul-Ilah As-Saadi of 09 Dec 2003 does not represent “the current position” of “the Arabs.” Does what, let’s say, Moshe Arens or Naftali Bennett, says on a given day represent “the current position” of “the Jews”? You cannot even see how racistly reductive you are. If anyone around here went on about “the Jews this” and “the Jews that” the way you go on about “the Arabs” you would immediately slap him with a stiff fine for committing anti-Semitism but your anti-Arabism, flagrant and repetitive, is given a pass. And what Mr. As-Saadi says in his piece points all the more to how Israel had better offer the Palestinians a half-way decent and non-humiliating deal for once in its life if it expects Palestinian leaders to be able to sell a finessed, agreed upon refugee solution to their public. The narcissism of thinking otherwise is striking. And finally, as your designated hitter for “the Arabs” notes, “Refugee representatives maintain that their community accepts the right of Israel to exist and its desire to live in peace with its neighbours and does not wish to destroy them.” Oh but you’ll still see all sorts of flies in the ointment, we know, we know.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Ok so Ben denies what Al Jazeera says is the Arab interpretation of the right of return demand. Fair enough.

            Maybe then Ben can point us to other Arabs who disagree with Al Jazeera’s interpretation. And since Ben is so big on links, maybe he could also provide a reference link.

            Oh and I am still awaiting Ben’s answer about how he would see the negotiations unfolding. My problem is that given the Arab response to the late Peres’s response to the API, I don’t see a path to a fruitful outcome. When Peres said to them that the API offer “is promising” but things like the right of return demand require further negotiations, the Arabs point blank refused. They told Peres, take the API as is, or leave it. So Israel naturally left it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            It was all much more complex than your version would have it be.

            The Arab Peace Initiative: An Assessment

            Read it. From Peres to the PA to Israeli security officials to the
            Saudis to Hamas to Olmert, Livni, Barak, and Netanyahu, ending with “Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that the fear that many Arab regimes have of Iran has created a strategic opportunity for Israel, but he rejected the API.”

            The RoR issue is obviously a tough issue for both sides and a sticking
            point that has to be finessed in negotiations—negotiations that would build trust and would give the Palestinian leaders the basic dignity and political breathing space to sell it to their public and face down radicals–not seized on cynically as Netanyahu did as a peremptory reason not to make the API a basis for negotiations. You can always strangle an infant in its crib. Making things not work is easy. Netanyahu did the easy thing, as always. The thing that promotes his constant overriding: goal staying in power. (But that is not to say that he not also his father’s son and an inveterate Arab-hater and Jewish extremist who has absolutely no intention of ever giving up the West Bank under any circumstances.)

            As I noted a few posts up on this page, I am still waiting on your answers to lots of things.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “As I noted a few posts up on this page, I am still waiting on your answers to lots of things.”

            I already answered that on the thread in which Ben raised it.

            Hint: it is one thing to criticise a country about how it treats minorities even at a time when the country is at war with the brethern of those minorities and many (not all) of the minorities side with their brethern. But it is quite another thing to suggest that because of that the entire ethnic group which is so accused has no right to self determination. That is what is being advocated by many who post here in this magazine.

            Were this standard applied elsewhere, then the independence of many Muslim countries should also be questioned. For instance, Pakistan would need to cease to exist as Pakistan and would have to agree to become part of India from which it was partitioned in 1948 in a bloody war which generated millions of refugees on both sides. According to the standards of the numerous Israel haters who post here, if they would be consistent, they would employ the same persistence that they employ against the Jews of Israel and they would demand day in and day out that Pakistan and India should be reunited under Hindu majority rule and the Hindus and Muslims should live in Kumbayah in a peaceful democratic paradise forever.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            While Ben is looking for a site (hopefully?) which he can use to contradict my above quote from Al Jazeera, I found another site which seems to contradict Ben’s optimistic claim about how we can negotiate with the Arabs about their right of return demand. Let me quote what that site says:

            “Many Palestinians said that Abbas was not authorized to make any concessions or speak on behalf of the refugees.

            “Our refugees will not accept any alternative to their right to return to their homeland and we do not care what Abbas’s position is.” — Ali Huwaidi, expert on Palestinian affairs.

            The reactions to Abbas’s statements concerning the issue of refugees show that any agreement that Abbas reaches with Israel under U.S. pressure will not signal the end of the conflict.”

            Here is the link to that site:


            Let’s see what Ben has to say about this? It seems I am not the only pessimist about the stance of the Arabs and the ROR.

            Reply to Comment
    4. Lewis from Afula

      But BEFORE June 1967 there was NO OCCUPATION, NO SETTLEMENTS & NO ROADBLOCKS. Yet, even then there was terrorism against Israelis. So, in my opinion, expulsion of the Jordanians back home is the only fair solution.

      In anycase, it is the only step that has not been tried yet.
      Why not give expulsion a chance?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Average American

      The end of the occupation equals the end of The Jewish State? I haven’t heard anyone who holds that position talk about losing commerce, agriculture, construction contracts, water, from the West Bank. Nothing about losing tax base or debt-to-GDP or balance of trade, basic economics that most people could at least understand as fears for the survival of a country. Nothing about Israel’s military which can certainly prevent a physical end to the Jewish State or its infrastructure. I’ve only heard about losing the Jewish Majority and THAT’s what will destroy the Jewish State. So we’re not talking about the business of running or defending a country, we’re talking about race and ideology.

      Reply to Comment
    6. carmen

      I would argue that a ‘jewish state’ provides no safety for jews at all. There are those always talking about the continuous ‘war’ we face. There is no war. It’s an occupation, with all of the accoutrements of an occupation, which has been a living hell for Palestinians. They have the right to resist their occupation, as I know anyone would who had to live under it. Besides, if all jews were in the same place, that would make it real easy for any regime bent on the annihilation of jews to be able to wipe them out, wouldn’t it? It seems that the u.s. has been the best place for jews. They are citizens there, just like everyone else. It would be best if israeli jews immigrated to the u.s., many want to, but I think they end up missing the favored status provided by the occupation and that’s something they better start getting used to.

      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        “It seems that the u.s. has been the best place for jews. They are citizens there, just like everyone else. It would be best if israeli jews immigrated to the u.s.”

        Oh gee thanks lady. nearly 6 million of us? An offer we just can’t refuse.

        Oh but wait. This lady said she is not even American. Has she asked Americans how they would feel about 6 million Israeli Jews descending on them? Back in the 1930s when European Jews were looking for a place to flee to, they and other countries were not all that keen to accept us. Why is today any different? Because Carmen says so?

        I have a counter offer. Maybe the Arab countries should offer citizenship to the Palestinian Arabs where the Palestinians fled to in 1948? They have both the space and the money. After all many of the 1 million Arab Jews who they forced to flee were quite well off. And those Jews left all their properties and assets behind. Moreover, the Palestinian Arabs have the same religion, they speak the same language and the same culture as the population of those Arab countries. They should fit in well with the locals. What would be wrong with that solution instead?

        Reply to Comment
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