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When will we get it? Palestinians are fighting for their freedom

We consider ourselves a nation that just wants to live in peace, but it’s about time we realize that for Palestinians the siege and the occupation are a constant state of war.

This article is a translation from Hebrew of my Time Out Tel Aviv column from July 31.

Not one of our wars was one of our choosing. Nobody should have to sleep with the thought of Hamas digging tunnels under their home. No state would have been willing to live with rockets. No one should accept the abduction of soldiers. No society would be willing to tolerate terror attacks in its cities. No one wants Katyusha rockets falling on cities in the north. No regime should accept stone-throwing on its main roads. All of the wars were entirely justified when they broke out, and anyone who doesn’t understand this is simply naive, or traitorous.

That’s how the obtuse rationale that has taken over Israel functions. Israeli existence has no past and no history, no context and no politics – just a cycle of threats and responses, all of which are justified.

Palestinians from Shejaiya area flee their homes and look for shelter in Gaza city following a large-scale Israeli attack on their neighborhood, Gaza City, July 20, 2014. Spokesman of the Palestinian ministry of health Ashraf al-Qidra said rescue teams evacuated more than 80 dead bodies from destroyed houses in Shejaiya including 17 children, 14 women and 4 elderly people. More than 200 injured people were taken to al-Shifa Hospital. Death toll in the Gaza Strip accedes 392 with over 2650 wounded since the beginning of the Israeli offensive. (photo: Anne Paq / activestills)

Palestinians from Shejaiya area flee their homes and look for shelter in Gaza City following a large-scale Israeli attack on their neighborhood, Gaza City, July 20, 2014. The spokesman of the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Ashraf al-Qidra, said rescue teams evacuated more than 80 bodies from destroyed houses in Shejaiya, including 17 children, 14 women and four elderly people. More than 200 injured people were taken to al-Shifa Hospital (photo: Anne Paq / Activestills)

At some point this cycle is supposed to get tired. At some point it should be clear that if you stop the suicide bombings, the other side finds rockets. And if you stop the rockets, the other side finds tunnels. I’m sure that the greatest of minds are working right now on a solution to the tunnels, except that soon another existential threat will rise, one that is much more primitive and much more frightening. Because that’s how independence struggles play out all over the world. Cruel, ugly, and bloody. The Viet Cong, the Algerian FLN, even the African National Congress at some point – they all held what were considered at the time to be radical ideologies, and they all used horrifying measures. Why would it be any different for us and the Palestinians?

The infrastructure for terror is the occupation. We consider ourselves a nation of peace seekers who just want to be allowed to live in peace, and I believe that no Israeli wants to kill or be killed. But it’s about time we understood that the Palestinians live in a constant state of war – whether it be the siege of Gaza or military rule in the West Bank. And if we don’t understand this, they’ll be sure to remind us. Gaza is the farthest place in the world from Tel Aviv – until the rockets fall. And then suddenly we remember we’re neighbors.

The entire world understands the connection between the occupation and terror. It’s only us who don’t. Only we feed ourselves stories of global Jihad and anti-Semitism being the root of the problem, while the most simple explanation is right in front of us. World history makes it clear: Either the occupied minority are made citizens of the occupying state, or it is granted independence. There are no other nations stuck in this kind of limbo, without citizenship and without a state, like the Palestinians. And there are certainly no  other nations that would tolerate it.

Tel Aviv is to blame, too. Tel Aviv, which thinks it’s a cute Western city, opposes the situation in theory but mostly doesn’t pay any attention to those forgotten just an hour away. Tel Aviv would also prefer to have victims of war instead of paying the price of a just compromise. Maybe because most of the victims are on the other side. Maybe because the cost of a compromise is a war at home, with our own people.

One thing is clear: This won’t stop. If we occupy the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians will try to kill the soldiers who enter Gaza, and if we leave they will swim and dig and fire missiles so that we remember they exist. Then we will respond with force. There will be no other choice.

Related:
Why do Palestinians continue to support Hamas despite such devastating losses?
Israel has alternatives to this war
Protective Edge: The disengagement undone

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    COMMENTS

    1. Craig Vale

      It speaks to the power that Hasbara still wields throughout the world when it comes to controlling the narrative of this ongoing butchery. Just today on MSNBC there was a 13 minute or so discussion by Joe Scarborough saying how ” We all get it” that Israel somehow holds the moral high ground and what else would you expect them to do? In those 13 minutes they had two or three reps with the Israeli viewpoint and not a single spokesperson for the Palestinians. Not even a pretense of fairness. Not once was the historical context of the plight of Gazan’s brought up in the conversation. The fact that ALL aspects of Gazan existence are controlled by the whims and fancies of the oppressor right down to the calorie count that Israel deems ” humanitarian” when it decides the amount of foodstuffs to enter Gaza. Willful ignorance in the West. Willful murder in the Gaza.

      Reply to Comment
      • jjj

        Sure – open the border, the naval route, and let Hamas obtain serious munitions, such as accurate 500kg missiles, nukes, chems…, why not?
        After all, Israeli’s don’t have a right to breath on this earth, or do they?

        Reply to Comment
    2. Whiplash

      Noam does not get it. He says:

      “Israeli existence has no past and no history, no context and no politics”

      Israel has a long past with Palestinian violence and terrorism which provides context for political and military decisions made by it. For not one minute of Israel’s existence has it been free from threat of attack or attacks from the ground or the air. The Palestinians have always seen the conflict as a zero sum game. If a Jewish state was established the Arabs lose. Arab Higher Committee member Musa Alami said to David Ben Gurion that he would rather see Palestine remain barren than for the Zionist to succeed.

      In 1948 Palestinian Arabs opposed two states for two people and sought to prevent the emergence of a Jewish state and sought to kill Israel’s people. The Arab states and the Palestinian Arabs refused to accept the results of the 1948 war and continued to seek elimination of the Jewish state and its people by attacks, raids, wars and other acts of terrorism.

      In seeking to destroy Israel, the Palestinian Arabs were not seeking self determination. The PLO Covenant of 1964 did not seek an independent Palestinian state for its people. Only after defeat of the Arab world again in 1967 did the PLO change its Covenant to include the desire for an independent Palestinian state, but a state built throughout the land from the River to the Sea. There was no two state solution envisaged, only the replacement of the Jewish state with another Arab state.

      In 1978 the Palestinian people refused peace negotiations with the Egyptians and Israelis. The Palestinian position was the total destruction of Israel and replacement with an Arab Palestinian state.

      In 1988 the PLO said it wanted two states envisioned in 1948 but continued to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel and an intrafada against Palestinians who the PLO did not like.

      In 1988 Hamas passed a Charter calling for the destruction of the Israeli state and in 1989 began kidnapping and killing Israelis, which killings go on to the presence.

      Let us not forget that the PLO and Fatah and the PA were very active in the 2nd Intifada killing 1100 Jews and injuring 8,000 more. Senior PA representatives like Zaki still say that Palestinians still intend to defeat Israel in stages, first taking a state inside 67 lines and then inside the lines. The Mufti of Jerusalem just two years ago called for a genocide of the Jews. Palestinians refuse the demand that any peace agreement be an end of the conflict. Palestinians want to be able to carry on the conflict even after there is a peace agreement.

      Israeli Jews understand this context so well that many on the left, like Gershon Baskin, are saying that Hamas must be defeated because the intent of Hamas is to destroy Israel. This is Hamas’ rationale for fighting Israel and many Palestinians in the PLO and PA share this rationale.

      Reply to Comment
      • Craig Vale

        You brought some very important context to the battle that rages today and I do appreciate that. However , one very important aspect was missing in the historical account. Ben Gurions own words as it related to statehood. To Wit:

        “If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti – Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault ? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?”
        I least he didn’t try to hide the truth and I give him credit for sying it like it was. It was and remains the literal theft of the lands and the continued issues re: settlements. Israel will NEVER address the root cause of this ongoing oppression .

        Reply to Comment
    3. carl

      Whiplash, this is the narrative that they thought you in school. It is simply flawed.

      To understand something you should go back to 1907, when 7th zionist congress established a department for the colonization of palestine. In Arthur Ruppin’s words, the aim was “the creation of a Jewish milieu and of a Closed Jewish economy, in which producers, consumers and middlemen shall all be Jewish”. It is there and with the ‘avodah ivrit’ logic that started the conflict:
      the local majority had and, mutatis mutandis, has the full right to oppose these policies.

      As for 1947, in Uri Avnery’s words:
      “No one asked the Arab Palestinians whether to accept or reject anything. If they had been asked, they would probably have rejected partition, since – in their view – it gave a large part of their historical homeland to foreigners. The more so, since the Jews, who at the time constituted a third of the population, were allotted 55% of the territory – and even there the Arabs constituted 40% of the population.”

      Open your eyes.

      Reply to Comment
    4. carl

      Btw, God Bless You Noam Sheizaf.

      Reply to Comment
      • Indeed.

        Reply to Comment
    5. Avdim

      I have two notes regarding the article

      1. Ending the conflict by ending the occupation requires two interested parties. The other side has never shown interest in ending the conflict, just by forcing Israel into more concessions with the clear desire to someday beat it completely. You can claim all you like the Israel is not interested, but there is simply no interest in the other side as well.

      Just take a look at this poll
      http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/new-palestinian-poll-shows-hardline-views-but-some-pragmatism-too
      Does that look like a desire to end the conflict?

      2. The last paragraph is horrendous. There is no occupation of Gaza, please accept this fact. Jews were ethically cleansed for that purpose. We did impose a blockade because we are at war with Hamas. And while Hamas did offer various ceasefires and demanded that we lift the blockade – it didn’t once try to end the conflict with Israel.

      Palestinian don’t have to fight for their freedom (not that I think they do) – they just need to accept the fact this conflict needs to end, the sooner the better for all of us. Once their goal will be to find a way to end the conflict, I assure you a way would be found and they will have all they desire. As long as the are looking for ways to achieve other goals – they will get other things.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Richard

      “freedom” – HA. this piece is like the HAL computer sputtering its last word as it grasps frantically to make an argument for survival – ISRAELI LAND is what the Palestinians want, and now THE WORLD gets it! This war will be a tipping point that creates serious financial difficulty for this propaganda outlet. +972 has never been this extreme, misleading, or partisan on the side of Hamas. When you’re outdoing the SAUDIS that really means something.

      Reply to Comment
    7. bar

      Fighting for their freedom?

      You mean freedom like in Syria? Like in Iraq? Like in Saudi? Like in Egypt? Like in the PA?

      Or do you mean freedom like in ISIS? Taliban? Boko Haram?

      I think your headline was meant to read “Palestinians are fighting for their freedom to attack and kill Jews.”

      Reply to Comment
      • Reza Lustig

        “You mean freedom like in Syria? Like in Iraq?”

        It was unintentional, but you’ve stumbled upon it: insurgency doesn’t come from bigotry or hatred, it comes from discontent. So, yes, the Syrian rebels ARE fighting for their freedom from Baathist tyranny, and Iraqi insurgents (in a misguided way) are resisting al-Maliki’s policy of treating Sunni Iraqis like 2nd-class citizens in their own country.

        Like Noam said, Zionists are the only people in the world who can’t put one and two together, due to their solipsism.

        Reply to Comment
        • bar

          You can call it whatever you like and you can try to put it into terms that sound romantic but the bottom line remains precisely what I pointed out – there is no freedom to be sought here because every single outcome in the “struggle for freedom” ends up without freedom.

          Certainly, every outcome is far, far, far, worse that Israel’s control over Palestinian lives. In fact, as anybody with eyes and half a brain would note, if the Palestinians ended their wars (I include diplomatic) against Israel tomorrow, they would be free of Israel’s control outside of border passes and other security measures. The PA has been governing for 20 years and Hamas for 8.

          Needless to say, what Hamas has done now will kill any chance for any changes for many, many years to come.

          Reply to Comment
    8. GKJames

      The cycle is unlikely to change given that the psychosis on both sides is so deeply entrenched. That said, for Israel in particular, who holds all the cards as well as the one thing that matters most — the land — there simply is nothing that would compel a change in its colonization policy. The price paid to date, whatever it is, has been no deterrent. Nor has the law, or even international opprobrium. Consequently, given the long-term plan to have ALL the land, which goes hand in hand with the policy of rejecting of an independent Palestinian state west of the Jordan, it’s apparent that the periodic savagery Israel elects to visit on the Palestinians (not to mention the countless, if less deadly but still petty and vindictive inflictions of daily misery) is intended not as a security measure but to reinforce the narrative that they have no legitimate place here. There is a palpable sense that Israelis hope these people would just go away.

      In this, of course, Israel is no different from any other conqueror reigning over a defeated though defiant population. What IS different is the perpetual bleating about Israel’s having to do what it does because it has no choice. And THAT’s the psychotic part. Unfortunately, the rest of the world has been, and is unlikely to stop being, the enabler that allows the psychosis to fester.

      Reply to Comment
      • Margot Dunne

        True – this is an excellent summation. Unhappily in my country of Australia “enabling” is the name of the game. The Murdoch press, our current government & much of the Jewish diaspora are consummate enablers.
        As for the petty, vindictive acts of the colonial power, I was once in a car travelling from Bethlehem back to Jerusalem. The driver was a quiet, gentle Armenian girl. We came to a checkpoint where a soldier played an officious little game with us, demanding again & again to see more ID, even when presented with ample & told there was no more to give. After we passed through the girl said softly: “It makes the Palestinians nervous.”
        I am deeply upset that in this whole tragedy there is little, if any, attention paid to the wider historical & contextual roots of the conflict. Way back in 1905, at the Zionist Congress, a delegate named Yitzhak Epstein said: “Can it be that the dispossessed will keep silent & calmly accept what is being done to them? Will they not ultimately arise to regain, with physical force, that which they are deprived of through the power of gold? Will they not seek justice from the strangers that placed themselves over their land?” And that was long before the Partition Plan of 1947 & the tentacles of its consequences.

        Reply to Comment
    9. Tomer

      The outlook of average Israelis continues to change. Many are beginning to consider Moshe Feiglin as being the correct man to lead the nation. The rise of an authentic believing Jew would spell the demise of our enemy.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Careful

      Noam, I haven’t looked at this site for many months and wondered if you had changed enough to say something different. Seems not.

      “They are fighting for their freedom.”

      You let us know when they put their effort toward governance.

      As in Egypt, the best that the benighted Muslims can hope for is a strong man who will care about their future.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Margot Dunne

      Noam is quite right &,judging from the adverse comments he generates, he is also brave. It seems to me that the place to solve Israel’s problem with Hamas is the occupied West Bank & (annexed) East Jerusalem. If Israel quit building & expanding settlements & took its people & its military back to the Green Line of Armistice, if it released the pincer hold it has on a population which it expects to remain ever docile in the face of settler violence (I have been to Hebron), constant restrictions to land use & movement, plus theft of water by the settlements etc., then I believe hatred would ease. And with the easing of hatred in these occupied territories would follow the possibility of truce with Hamas.
      I certainly don’t believe that most Israelis & the devoted diaspora “get this” at all.

      Reply to Comment
      • Eliza

        Margot – Refer back to the excellent post by GKJames. Israel cannot really try to solve its Hamas problem by sweetening life for Palestinians residing in the West Bank.

        Israel wants all the land west of the Jordon. The land it wants least is actually Gaza. The most that Israel will willing concede to the Palestinians is a few bits of disconnected land within W/B where the Palestinians can determine the fate of their garbage collectors.

        I think most Israelis are quite aware of the long term plan to permanently control all of the land and most approve.

        Reply to Comment
        • Margot Dunne

          Hi Eliza – What I was trying to say was: “GET OUT OF THE WEST BANK!TOTALLY!!” I know that Israel doesn’t want Gaza.I know what the colonialist long-term plan is. I know most people support this.
          I know that tiny Bantustans are all that are on offer at the moment.
          I just can’t help thinking that the root of the Hamas tooth lies in the West Bank, & that if this area was fully ceded back to Palestine then peace with Hamas would follow. Unfortunately most Israelis are so mired in an unfortunate pig-headed delusion that they just “don’t get it”, & that none of this is at all likely to happen.

          Reply to Comment
    12. Melinda Huntley

      What a clear, moral and just statement addressing the roots of this conflict. Yes indeed all resistant movements have their ugly side even the Israelis had their terror but this is all lost in mainstream media. Thank you for this uplifting letter.

      Reply to Comment
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