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Questions for an Israeli friend who thinks 'everything is okay'

You say that Palestinians are to blame for failing to stop terror, for not entering negotiations, for not signing a peace treaty with Israel. I cannot buy this argument. Not anymore. Not after 48 years.

By Gil Rimon

Palestinian women cross the Qalandiya checkpoint outside Ramallah, West Bank, into Jerusalem to attend the first Friday of Ramadan prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, July 12, 2013. (photo: Activestills.org)

Palestinian women cross the Qalandiya checkpoint outside Ramallah, West Bank, into Jerusalem to attend the first Friday of Ramadan prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, July 12, 2013. (photo: Activestills.org)

“You always oversimplify things,” you say whenever I mention the words “injustice,” “discrimination” or, god forbid, “racism” (not to mention the A-word). “Israel does not meddle with Palestinian rights. It’s not our fault they can’t manage their own people and corruption. They always choose violence, read your history, dude. They always choose the wrong people for their parliament. Don’t be ridiculous: they are the violent side in this story. I wish, but we have no partner for peace.”

And you try to refresh my memory: “Do you even remember they have had their own civilian autonomy since Oslo? Do you even remember buses blowing up while Rabin was trying to grant them autonomy, peace, parts of the holy land? Most Israelis are holding their hand out for peace, but the Arabs just can’t leave us alone. They hate us.

Anyway, we have our own problems. And I almost forgot Gaza — well, let’s not even start.”

My friend, you admit you don’t care too much about human rights in the West Bank when times are peaceful, as it is none of your business. When confrontations start you are all for the IDF to end it abruptly and without too many Israeli casualties. When there are negotiations you are cautious about giving away too much land and not getting any peace in return.

But hey friend, take my other friend, Muhammad, as an example. He is living in Nablus and working in Ramallah where he is an Android developer for American clients.

Muhammad’s control over his life is so much more limited than mine and yours. It is clear that we are much more privileged. Like most Palestinian residents he was never involved in violence  —  but he can’t have our rights.

A universal view, which I strongly relate to, believes that human rights should be granted unconditionally and equally to all. When a sovereign country takes control over a new territory, especially militarily, the new individuals are now the subjects of that sovereign country.

The new subjects are entitled to a set of human rights. If an individual breaks the law — a terrorist, for example — it should not interfere with the rights of a law-abiding individual. Violent and unlawful individuals can be taken to the same courts as citizens.

Muhammad and his law-abiding friends are de facto living within Israeli borders, at least the way Israel sees it. If Muhammad has a dispute with any of his settler neighbors, the settlers may have to answer to the Israeli police. Muhammad, on the other hand, will have to face the army.

Settlers throw stones at Palestinians as IDF soldiers stand by in the West Bank village of Asira al Qibliya. April 30, 2013 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Settlers throw stones at Palestinians as IDF soldiers stand by in the West Bank village of Asira al Qibliya. April 30, 2013 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The State of Israel ultimately controls Muhammad’s fate in every way, and is responsible for the fact that he is not entitled to his civil rights the way I am.

Israel has ignored this responsibility for 48 years. Israel tells Muhammad that he should talk to the Palestinian Authority about that — a body controlled by Western powers, which hardly represents anyone,  and has no real authority.

When you say Israel will never be a “perfect democracy” because, after all, there is no such thing; and that “Jewish” should always come first in “a Jewish and democratic State,” and that the Law of Return must not be touched; and that Israel is a “villa in the jungle”; and that ISIS is on our borders.  There are still limits to what I can live with and call a democracy, but this is where I draw the line.

You say, why talk about Muhammad? He’s not the issue. Let’s talk about people, the Bible, historical hatred between nations and religious wars. Let’s argue that nothing should be done until everything is perfectly thought of and agreed upon. You say there shall be peace when they will be ready— like the Egyptians before the Camp David Accords. We’ll fight a little and at some point reach a “cold peace” anyway.

But Palestinians are Israeli subjects, not the citizens of a neighboring, sovereign country.

The official position of the Israeli government is that Muhammad’s troubles originate in his failure to come up with a brave leader, end all terrorist activities, enter into fruitful negotiations with Israel, persuade everybody that Israel is a serious partner that can be trusted, and sign a treaty that will give him and his friends some amorphous entity in the unknown future, which will enable them to exercise their rights . Until then, they must suffer obediently. I cannot buy this argument. Not anymore. Not after 48 years.

Peace between states and nations can wait. Rights for the people cannot.

Gil Rimon is a screenwriter, journalist and an internet entrepreneur specializing in content technologies. He tweets at @subtext. A version of this article was first published on Medium

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    COMMENTS

    1. Pedro X

      The Palestinians claim to be a people who are responsible for themselves. The daily lives of 98% of the Palestinian population is ruled by the PA or Hamas. The Palestinian population choice of government in both Gaza and the West Bank determines their freedoms and rights. If they lack rights it is due to the people they elected to rule them. The Palestinians elected Arafat despite being a terrorist, corrupt and having no mechanism of civil government. Hamas was elected despite being an extremist and fundamentalist Islamic group with aims to carry on terrorism against Israel. Palestinians cannot escape their choices.

      It is in their power to make choices that would end the conflict with Israel. They have chosen not to and suffer the consequences.

      As a separate people they do not have a right to infringe rights of the Jewish people to protect themselves from Palestinian society and their culture of Jew hatred and violence. The Palestinians claim that Jews are their enemies. An ADL poll showed that over 9 in 10 Palestinians are anti-Semites. The PA pays terrorists and their families life time salaries for terrorist attacks against Israel and the Jewish state. Palestinian governments and media glorify terrorism and promote hatred and violence against Jews. Hamas seeks to destroy Israel and kill all Jews. PSR polls after the 2014 Gaza war showed that Palestinians as a group approved of Hamas’s war and tactics and wanted Hamas weapons and tactics transferred to the West Bank.

      If Palestinians want peace and two states for two people, they need to seek cooperation and reconciliation with the Jewish people. The Palestinian strategy of demonization of Israel and non-cooperation does not lead to peace.

      Reply to Comment
      • Haifawi

        ‘the daily lives of 98% of the palestinian people is ruled by the PA or hamas’

        I don’t know a single palestinian who doesn’t interact with an israeli agency every day, whether it is getting stopped at a checkpoint, topping up their 3G data, buying produce, registering the birth of a child, crossing the border to jordan, filling the car’s gas tank at almost israeli prices, or even turning on the lights and water taps.

        Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        The Palestinians can’t enter or leave the area without Israeli permission. A Palestinian who leaves the West Bank for more than 3 years can’t be assured of getting back in. A Palestinian farmer who leaves his land fallow can have it confiscated by the the Israeli government. Everything imported and exported from the West Bank needs Israeli approval. In many areas of the West Bank any permanent structures built by the Palestinians can (and have been) demolished at any time.

        But they can decide whether to have garlic or olive hummous for lunch.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          If their olive trees have been cut down by IDF or settlers as they often are they have to go with garlic hummus however.

          Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            Gays and lesbians are being hanged in Iran, but the hypocrites obsessed with Jews and Israel care more about alleged Palestinian olive trees.

            Palestinians are being barrel-bombed and behead in Syria, but the hypocrites obsessed with Jews and Israel don’t give a damn, because Israel and Jews are not involved there. Instead they come here weeping about alleged Palestinian olive trees and blaming Jews.

            In Syria more than half a million people have been slaughtered and many are still being killed daily, but the hypocrites obsessed with Jews and Israel don’t give a damn, because Israel and Jews are not involved there. Instead they come here weeping about alleged Palestinian olive trees and blaming Jews.

            You guys are really sick. Very sick.

            Reply to Comment
          • Yael

            That has nothing to do with anything – I’m an Israeli, not a Syrian, Iranian or Lebanese. I care about what *MY* country is doing, in *MY* name, and how hypocritical it’s being pretending to be a democratic, western, part-of-the-oecd country.
            The fact that Israelis believe this bullshit about Palestinians being in charge of their own population and controlling their own fate just shows how much Israelis don’t want to know, and not knowing doesnt absolve them, on the contrary.

            Reply to Comment
      • Weiss

        What a fucking hypocrite…

        Israel had no problem electing TERRORISTS like Menachem Begin either.

        The irony is the sheer fact that Israel has an army navy air force AND nuclear weapons and CONTROL of ALL the land while using the Bible to justify it.

        The Palestinians have NONE OF THE ABOVE…

        Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      Reuven Rivlin tells it like it is in radical speech:

      http://www.haaretz.com/news/israel/1.660417

      Reuven Rivlin has proven that he is president of the real Israel
      His radical speech to the Herzliya Conference was remarkable, first of all, because it was true: he revealed that something even Israel’s politicians refuse to acknowledge.

      He told its people that the country many of them think they live in does not exist.
      Israel, Rivlin said, is fast becoming a tribal state composed of four groups — secular Jews, religious Zionist Jews (also called national religious), ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) Jews and Arabs, all of them fearful, hostile to one another and even to members of their own group.

      …there is no longer a clear majority, nor clear minority groups” and consisting of “four principal ‘tribes,’ essentially different from each other, and growing closer in size. Whether we like it or not, the make-up of the ‘stakeholders’ of Israeli society, and of the State of Israel, is changing before our eyes.” …

      He called on Israelis “to abandon the accepted view of a majority and minorities, and move to a new concept of partnership between the various population sectors” resting on what he called “four pillars”…

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        Show me where in the Middle East has this mythcal world of Kumbyah worked for even 20 years continuously and I will buy your snake oil Benny. But you can’t so we won’t be your experimental animals. Pick on someone else.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          No one least of all me is asking you to sing Kumbaya with anyone. You know me: I think you guys are the ones always trying to say it’s about feelings when I say it’s about enforceable agreements. What it IS about is facing reality, as Asher Schecter explains:

          “In his address to the Herzliya Conference, Rivlin proved that he is president of the real Israel. It’s not as obvious as it seems: Israel’s current government governs an imaginary country, its prime minister presides over a fictitious land. In their imaginary version of the state, Israel has a clear Jewish Zionist majority, its Jewish identity doesn’t clash with its self-definition as a democracy (as it has so often in recent years), and senior ministers honestly believe that any criticism must stem from anti-Semitism and they pretend Israel can just boycott the entire world.

          In the land of leaders leading imaginary lands, politicians who face reality head-on are a rare breed. Also at the Herzliya Conference, opposition leader Isaac Herzog repeated cliches of yore, such as disengagement from the Palestinians — as if that’s still possible, as if the two-state solution can simply be revived. Warning that the creation of a binational state would endanger Israel, Herzog ignored the fact that the binational state is already being created.

          Whether they are trying to segregate buses on the West Bank or they believe that “boycotting the boycotters” is a recipe for foreign-relations success, Israeli politicians seem to be disengaged from reality, lost in solipsism. Theirs is a country where acts have no consequences, where cultural and demographic shifts trends are meaningless or transient.

          But there is a real Israel, even if its politicians refuse to acknowledge it. More a federation of tribes than a unified society, it is on the verge of radical change. Its people often live in fear of each other. It has a richness of culture, of languages and sensibilities, but it is also incredibly ethnocentric and extremely exclusionary. It can redefine itself. It must redefine itself. But in order for that to happen, its leaders must first come to terms with its real face.”

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Hey Benny, I’ll paraphrase Mark Twain’s saying after false reports of his death…

            Your report of our death is premature and exaggerated. Don’t be in such a hurry to bury us. We are a very resilient people.

            Wishful thinking will not make your wish real, Benny dear.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            My dear Gussie,
            Are you depressed? Why so morbid and gloomy? Death? Asher Schecter writes of hopeful things. Redefinition, rebirth, a renaissance. The future. Born by facing reality. It’s a very hopeful message when you think it through.
            Best,
            Benny
            P.S.: Yes, all change is hard; and requires resilience. And intelligence. I know we can do it, together.

            Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            No job yet, Brian alias “Ben” alias “MuslimJew” alias etc? Still fixating on- and obsessing with Jews and Israel 24/7 and ranting on the comment section of every Jewish English-news-site, while not knowing nor caring about what goes on in your own country that has more social problems than Israel, Benny? Sheesh, Benny, what happened to you? This obsession with Jews and Israel is really messing up your poor empty life big time. Go find a job and seek professional help, you psychotic moron!

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            No Benny, I am not the one who is depressed. You are! You are depressed because I reminded you how very much alive we are and how resilient we are.

            And there you were, trying to bury us prematurely, Benny. Poor old Benny, you failed again. Like all who tried to bury us throughout history failed.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            A classic Gustavian paranoid statement. Dialogue is futile. Asher Schecter is out to get you too. And all the writers of Haaretz and +972 are out to bury you…. And Barack Obama too….. They’re everywhere….

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            You mean they are not?

            Whew, what a relief, LOL.

            Whether they intend to or not is not the issue. What they advocate would destroy the only state that we the Jewish people have. As for whether the two state solution is dead? No it isn’t. What is dead though is the idea of the 1967 borders. You know what Aba Eban called those borders? He called it the Aushwitz borders. And Aba Eban was one of our moderate politicians. In fact, he was a left winger.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Just shows you. It is possible to be a left winger without being a nutter.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Of course I know what Eban said. Did you think you’d surprise me with a 48 year old cliché? It’s an interesting reference point. It reveals you to be stuck, in my view, in another era. (Or rather, it confirms my longstanding impression from all of your arguments that your are stuck in another era in terms of the framework you single-mindedly nourish to understand the conflict. We could say that “Auschwitz borders” encapsulates your whole view. (Except you also I think insert other justifications when no one’s looking but let’s keep it simple.)) As Peter Beinart wrote recently, “pro-Israel” activism has gone successively from an anti-Arafat to an anti-Iran to an anti-BDS platform of justifications. The Iran era is closing and we are entering the age of BDS. It’s a long way from the Eban era. That was at least two eras ago. The invoking of Eban is faux-continuity. And you can call Eban a moderate that is a “left winger” in your lexicon if you want but he was not so moderate as to not violate, knowingly, deliberately, explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in war and on the prohibition of the transfer by belligerent occupiers of the occupier’s civilian populations into administered territories.

            Gershom Gorenburg:

            Israel knew all along that settlements were illegal.
            “It was March 1968. Yaakov Herzog, director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, received a memo marked “Top Secret” from the Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser, Theodor Meron. As the government’s authority on international law, Meron was responding to questions put to him about the legality of demolishing the homes of terror suspects in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and of deporting residents on security grounds.

            His answer: Both measures violated the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in war. The government’s justifications of the measures – that they were permitted under British emergency regulations still in force, or that the West Bank wasn’t occupied territory – might have value for hasbara, public diplomacy, but were legally unconvincing.

            The legal adviser’s stance in 1968 is important today precisely because it is unexceptional. It’s the view of nearly all scholars of international law, including prominent Israeli experts. The memo shows that from the very start of the occupation, central figures in the Israeli government knew that deportations and demolitions violated Israel’s international commitments, and not just in the eyes of outside critics.

            Yet both measures have been used ever since…

            The memo is not the first evidence of Meron’s warnings, though. In 2006, I published another of his legal opinions, which I found in the late Prime Minister Levi Eshkol’s declassified office files. Written in mid-September of 1967, about three months after the Six-Day War, it responds to a query from Eshkol’s bureau about the legality of establishing settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights.

            He answered, “My conclusion is that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

            Central figures in Israel’s government at the time – Eshkol, Foreign Minister Abba Eban, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Justice Minister Yaakov Shimshon Shapira – all received that legal advice. A week and a half later, the cabinet approved settlement in the West Bank for the first time. Ex post facto, a few scholars have manufactured the justifications for settlement that are regularly cited for hasbara purposes. But their legal gymnastics have never convinced anyone who was not trying hard to be convinced….”

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Another era? You mean since the Aban era the Arab world has evolved? You mean in our era, the Palestinan Arabs have become more civilized? They now cherish peace?

            Nah, Beinart has not convinced me of that. And you, Benny, are doing an even worse job. You are in denial and you want us to be in denial too. Remember our conversation about Abbas and his right of return demand? Wanna revisit it?

            Reply to Comment
    3. Jello

      Palestinians are not Israeli citizens and are subject to Israeli security control only because their represantatives refuse to accept sovereignty while teaching their population that it is just and right to kill Israeli men, women and children while insisting that no solution is acceptable which leaves Israel alive.

      I am perfectly okay with ensuring this continues to be the case until the Palestinians start wanting peace more than they want to destroy Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        “[Palestinian] representatives refuse to accept sovereignty while teaching their population that it is just and right to kill Israeli men, women and children while insisting that no solution is acceptable which leaves Israel alive.”

        Point in case. On May 28, 2015 Palestinian TV broadcast President Abbas awarding terrorist Fatima Barnawi with the “Military Star of Honor.” Barnawi placed a bomb in the middle of a crowded movie theater in Jerusalem in 1967 in an attempt to murder civilians. Another movie goer noticed that she forgot her bag and got an attendant who heard the ticking of the bomb when he picked it up. As a result a major massacre was averted. The terrorist was caught and served 10 years in prison.

        Yet 48 years later President Abbas awards a military medal to the terrorist in front of the Palestinian people for having tried to murder Jews, even though she failed. From the Palestinian standpoint the attack was a success because it spread fear throughout the world and caused Israelis to post guards in front of public places.

        Abbas’s PA authority recently on May 9, 2015 honored the three families of terrorists who were involved in the lynching, murder and disembowelment of two Israeli reservists in 2000. Director of PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, Issa Karake, lead a delegation to the homes of the murderers and awarded their families with plaques honoring their murderers.

        On May 3, 2015 Fatah held a chess tournament in honor of Tanzim terrorist Marwan Zalum. Zalum was the commander of the Hebron Tanzim involved in a number of murderous attacks. He sent the terrorist who shot an Israeli infant in her baby carriage in 2001. He sent the bomber who detonated himself and his explosive belt in an open air market in Jerusalem in 2002 killing 6 and wounding 80.

        Every month the PA and Fatah honor killers and murderers of Jews. The message which the PA and Fatah send to the Palestinian people is that the killing of Jews is just and is to emulated. These people honoring terrorists and exhorting the Palestinian public to murder Jews are considered moderates in the eyes of the West.

        Palestinians are not Israeli citizens and have no right to expect the state to treat them as if they were. The Israeli state has the right to protect its population against the Palestinians and their culture of Jew Hatred and murder.

        The Palestinians can always choose to become a peace loving people but that is not happening anytime soon.

        Reply to Comment
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