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When the conversation over occupation feels outdated (part 2)

Last week I wrote about the outdated feeling the debate over the occupation renders. One commenter wondered why both Larry Derfner (who also commented on the article) and I are “disappointed” with Knesset members from Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, even though they say the very same thing we write about on this site.

I didn’t vote for Lapid, but his pact with the extreme right is enough of a reason to dismiss any hope that he will contribute to the end of the occupation in the foreseeable future. However, the issue here is not the existence of one, or two, or 40 Israeli MKs who are ready to speak about the need to end the occupation, but rather the entire logic of the debate.

In Israeli eyes, the urgency of changing the status quo, or even the whole notion of ending the occupation, is something for Israelis to discuss “democratically.” As long as there are two opposing camps – “pro peace” and “pro settlements”, or any other name one might chose – things are just fine. Those wishing to end the occupation can try to help the “pro peace” camp win, just as president Obama did in his Jerusalem speech.

It is a very twisted view. There is nothing “democratic” about debating – for almost half a century – the right of millions to basic human and civil rights. And what if Israelis decide, and one might say they already have, not to end the occupation? What if they choose to leave the Palestinians under military law for good? Is that an option we should accept, because it was reached in “a democratic way?”

Israeli democracy is meaningless when it comes to the Palestinian issue, since most of the Palestinians are not allowed to take part in this debate, let alone vote. Israelis can debate how they end the occupation, but not whether they do it at all. This is why I feel very comfortable with supporting outside pressure that would force Israelis to change their mind.

Thus, we shouldn’t be impressed with some Knesset members who speak out against the occupation, but rather ask ourselves what steps they are taking to end it. In the case of MKs from Lapid’s party, who respect their alliance with the settlers and help maintain a right-wing, pro-occupation coalition, the answer is pretty clear.

In Israel, a conversation about the future of occupation is part of the occupation
Survey: Israeli Jews tolerate settlements, status quo
Giving the occupation an expiration date: A way out of the diplomatic dead end.

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    1. John Bradford

      As an Englishman, what I don’t understand about Israeli democracy is why there appears to be no demand amongst Israeli voters for an end to the occupation, because if there were, then surely such a political party would have won power by now. So I have to assume that ordinary Israeli voters and citizens have democratically agreed that they want the occupation to continue. Some democracy! We’ve all decided to do something terrible, so that’s all right, then!

      Reply to Comment
    2. Eilon

      Well, Israelis have previously voted for ending the occupation…. and it caused 3000 dead Israelis & another 10,000 severly injured.

      This debate is now over. The Arabs can stay under occupation for another several generations until they change their views. Israel Unrecognized = No Justice = No Peace

      Reply to Comment
    3. Kolumn9

      Israeli citizens get to democratically decide what actions their government will take in relation to their economy and their security. All other concerns are external to the democratic dynamic, including the claimed rights of foreigners.

      The debate is not about the rights of the Palestinians (which is really where your problem lies). The debate is about the correct course of action for the state of Israel in relation to the security and diplomatic considerations. To expect Israeli politicians to consider the rights of non-citizens as their primary concern is very much contrary to the principles of democratic government.

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      • Haifawi

        By building settlements and claiming their territory as “disputed” you have made them “non-foreigners.” Of course, there IS a way to occupy territory and keep the populace as foreign, and the 4th Geneva Convention provides a mechanism for doing exactly that.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          We have made some of the land foreign to them, we never made them non-foreigners, they didn’t want to nor did/do we intend to.

          Reply to Comment
          • Haifawi

            I’m sorry. You can’t pick and choose the land ‘around’ them to take, and then claim with a straight face ‘oh, but they’re foreigners.’ If they are foreigners, then their territory is sacrosanct. You control their citizenship rolls, entry and exit, and tax accounts. By any non completely cynical observation, you have made them non-foreigners, yet you insist on treating them as such. You have no one to blame for this but your own. You could have left the Nahal bases for the IDF instead of converting them into “communities,” and then I wouldn’t be having this discussion with you.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            By any non-completely cynical observation they are about as Israeli as the neighboring Jordanians, which they too objectively were until 1988. Nor do “they” have a legitimate claim on all the land, not individually and most certainly not as a group whose common identity goes back to the 1960s at best. And yes, to Israel they are foreigners in every possible sense of the word even if due to security considerations and to avoid having our central cities bombarded with rockets we control some aspects of their lives. That too makes them foreigners – their capacity to overwhelmingly support the murder of our civilians – and our lack of empathy for their suffering.

            If we didn’t convert some Nahal bases into communities we would be having this discussion about other Nahal bases we did convert into communities. On that I have zero doubt.

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          • Haifawi

            You can’t convert ANY Nahal bases into communities. That’s what makes them “non-foreign.” Because you have MINISTRY OF THE INTERIOR offices in Ariel. If they were foreigners, then the office in Ariel would be “משרד החוץ”
            It doesn’t matter how you “feel” about them. If you wanted them to be foreign you wouldn’t build Israeli cities in foreign territory.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            The Palestinians are foreign because they are not Israeli citizens. They live [ for the most part] in territory controlled by the PA and travel on passports that say ‘Palestinian Authority’ on it. Before 1988 they travelled on passports that said ‘Jordan’ on them. That Ariel exists where it does has exactly zero impact on the nationality of the Palestinians of Nablus.

            And the point about Nahal bases being converted into settlements was that if it hadn’t been done in the West Bank we would be having this argument about Nahal bases that were converted into settlements within the 1948 lines.

            Reply to Comment
    4. “Israelis can debate how they end the occupation, but not whether they do it at all.” : Well, a majority Knesset voting to withdraw from the Bank is possible. A prolonged occupation attempts to force the logic of war onto daily life; human dignity is trampled. Democracy is a regulated voting system, not a constitution with court protected rights. What makes the occupation ambiguous are the settlers, voting in elections, protected by the IDF, and largely immune from abuses against Palestinians. Settlers are transforming occupation into Greater Israel, producing a class of noncitizens under indirect (and sometimes direct) jurisdiction of the Knesset. This produces a subjegated class without rights; but such exists in Israel ;proper in minor form.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Richard Witty

      Sadly, the urging of thinking in terms of abandoning the two-state solution, is exactly what the far right propose.

      “Idea of a two-state solution has reached ‘dead end,’ Bennett says
      Economy Minister says Israel must stop trying to solve the problem and ‘live with it;’ calls for extending Israeli sovereignty over Area C of the West Bank.”


      Reply to Comment

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