By Jerry Alatalo
any academics, political analysts, peace activists, experts in global affairs and others consider the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict the most important international relations challenge of our time. Israel-born Jewish Professor Ilan Pappe (currently lecturing in the United Kingdom) is one of thousands of men and women academicians on Earth who firmly hold that belief. He has written a new book “Ten Myths About Israel”, a (in his words) “concise pocketbook” for those interested in learning about the situation. He visited Seattle, Washington in the northwest region of the United States recently to speak about the long-endured, at times seemingly insoluble problems – along with his vision for a solution.
During an interview while in Seattle, Professor Pappe shared both his personal experiences and knowledge of the conflict as well as some little-known facts making it clear that major changes in Israel’s political system are necessary. His view is authoritative as its foundation is the raw historic truth: Israel is the only national government on Earth implementing apartheid policies and conditions, with the example most recently seen – and rightly abolished – of South Africa.
Professor Ilan Pappe draws similarities between the settler colonialist history of America, the inhumane, genocidal treatment of Native Americans and Israel’s Zionist factions’ treatment of the indigenous Palestinian people, in particular since 1967. With experience as a professor in Israeli universities before becoming essentially thrown out of his country, he describes the role of education in Israel as a large factor responsible for perpetuation of the conflict.
“The whole education system is built on dehumanization of the Palestinians, so even liberal Israelis are Israelis who regard the Palestinians as aliens, but they are tolerant enough to let them be there, or have some of the land. There’s a basic misunderstanding… even the more liberal Zionists – that Zionism emigrated into the homeland of someone else, not that these natives emigrated. They’re not immigrants.”
“Not that we should treat immigrants in some bad way… Of course, we shouldn’t. But it’s funny that the whole liberal discourse in Israel about the Palestinians is the discourse of immigrants. So, if you’re a liberal person… you tolerate immigrants. You’re willing to let them be absorbed into the society. But this is not the situation – these (Palestinians) are not immigrants. You (Israelis) are the immigrants, and you have to ask the Palestinians to allow you to stay.”
“And this is something very difficult; after 100 years of oppression, to understand that the oppressor needs the legitimacy from the oppressed is very difficult to accept.”
Often Israel is described as the “only democracy in the Middle East”. This is one of the myths which Professor writes about in his new book, “Ten Myths About Israel”, upon which he by use of analogy says:
“If one-fifth (20%) of the American population would have been under military rule, meaning that only a military person would determine your basic rights, you would not call the United States a democracy.”
“In many ways Israel reminds me of South Africa because whites in South Africa enjoyed a certain level of democracy but the Africans did not enjoy any level of democracy. And the same is true of Israel. So, you can say that for the Jews in Israel, Israel is a democracy, but anyone who is not a Jew is a 2nd-rate, if not a 3rd-rate citizen.”
“There are practices which are not officially admitted, but very known to everyone, that discriminate against you. I will give you one fact that I think is very important, and which most of your listeners probably do not know. I’m talking pre-1967 borders, to make it clear. According to Israeli law most of the land belongs to the Jewish agency. According to the law of the Jewish agency, it is not allowed to sell land to non-Jews. So, 97% of the land of Israel is not for sale to the Palestinian citizens of Israel who are 20% of the population.”
“So they have no access to buy land, to purchase land, to expand… In fact, in the past 70 years only Jewish settlements and Jewish towns have been built – not one Palestinian citizen. Another example… We have a law in Israel which allows a Jewish community to reject the presence of a Palestinian citizen, or citizens, from their midst because they are… the only reason is they are Palestinians – they are not Jewish.”
“Imagine if there would be a neighborhood in Seattle which could be by law decided that African-Americans could not live there. I’m talking about official racism. I’m not talking about informal racism that exists in every society; I don’t think Israel is unique in that. But I think it’s quite unique for a country that pertains to be the only democracy in the Middle east to have laws that discriminate against people just because of their identity.”
“That for me is the definition of an undemocratic society.”
After the interviewer asked Professor Pappe toward the end of the interview for his views on what is the best option to resolve the conflict, he responded:
“The first thing I believe even before one-state solution – and I’ve devoted my life to this – is to convince the international community, that it’s in the interests of the international community, to put pressure on Israel to first of all change its immediate policies of oppression, even before we talk about a solution, in order to create conducive circumstances for a solution. We need to get the Israelis out of the life of the Palestinians in the West Bank, to lift the siege of the Gaza Strip, to stop the discrimination against the Palestinians in Israel, and to seriously consider the right of the Palestinian refugees to come home.”
“Now, if I take all these three basic rights that Israel violates, the rights to live in peace in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in a democracy inside Israel, and the right to come back home for the refugees, I can only see one political outcome that will enable us to implement these right – and that’s one democratic state for all. Because I think, otherwise, any other political solution would perpetuate it, would make it even worse than it is today. When I say worse it means mainly for the Palestinians, but I also think it’s not very positive for the Jews.”
“So I think that for everyone we should live democratically as you here in the United States, as human beings regardless of our identity, religious identity, national identity, gender or color. One person, one vote… I’m willing to take a bi-national state if that is what people want. It’s much better than what we have today. Maybe people would want a collective identity; I can appreciate it, especially on the Jewish side because they’ve built a culture of their own. I think a lot of Palestinians would go along with this. “
“But the state has to be a state for everyone, and should not be divided, or be partitioned. And the 3rd generation of settlers and the native people have a very good chance of making Palestine, and Israel – or whatever we will call it – one of the best places on Earth.”
(Thank you to TalkingStickTV at YouTube)