. The Changing Political Discourse about Israel and Palestine | London Progressive Journal
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The Changing Political Discourse about Israel and Palestine

Sat 4th Aug 2018












Telling Cleopatra that Antony has married Octavia, the messenger is threatened with all kinds of tortures. He pleads, “I that do bring the news made not the match”. I feel the same as this unfortunate messenger tonight for I bring little cheer and less hope of developments since we last met.

I remind you of a similar reference in Shakespeare’s Henry IV

Yet the first bringer of unwelcome news

Hath but a losing office, and his tongue

Sounds ever after as a sullen bell,

Remember’d tolling a departing friend

In this case, the “friend” that has now departed is “peace”.

Let me start with something that is very dear to my heart as a Palestinian. Peace will come. My distress comes from the fact that we have to go through what feels like endless horrors before we reach that point.

History has shown us that every conflict does come to an end and that erstwhile adversaries end up living in peace – albeit feeling very stupid for having paid such a heavy price for that peace finally achieved.

Nonetheless, since we last were together, many events and political shifts have taken place and which have pushed the eventual peace that will come well into the distant future.

Something has happened, and is still happening to our world. I shudder to think of historical parallels to what is happening today. You would all have clear historical parallels to current developments.

I would like to cite some of these happenings, political shifts and public utterances that cause me to speak in these negative terms. We do not have the time to do so tonight. Let me just quote a few statements that show the shift in the prevailing political discourse in recent months. Given the very little time that we have, let us entertain ourselves by seeing if we recognise the speakers:

“… We have a strong commitment to peace… As I said in December, our greatest hope is for peace. [We] remain fully committed to a lasting peace agreement… we extend a hand in friendship to Israel, the Palestinians and to all their neighbours. May God bless this embassy…” You would have thought that the last sentence identifies the speaker. So does the repetitive use of language, the distinction between ‘Israel’ (a distinct country) and ‘the Palestinians’ (just a group of disparate peoples with no national territory recognisably theirs).

“We should remind ourselves why the G8 became the G7, it was because Russia illegally annexed Crimea…” The double standards implicit shine out blindingly. Russia annexing Crimea illegally is naughty. Israel illegally annexing Syria’s Golan Heights and Palestinian East Jerusalem not to mention the de facto annexation of the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territories through illegal settlements is presumably a great act of kindness.

“Let’s remember that the Hamas terrorist organisation has been inciting violence for years, long before the United States decided to move our embassy. This is endangering the people of Gaza. Make no mistake, Hamas is pleased with the results from yesterday…” [The death of unarmed Palestinian protesters shot by Israel's “most moral army in the world”… ] Of course, we are, by now used to Nikki Haley’s [aka Nimrata Randhawa] sleight of hand political discourse.

“I want to [affirm] our commitment to the two-state solution with Jerusalem as the shared capital of two states.” But then the voice of the EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini is spoken in the voided world of the chattering classes whose utterances are completely ignored.

“I’m proud to have been a Zionist and Friend of Israel all my adult life…” How desperate is Michael Gove to become Prime Minister? Stop laughing. It might still happen. In fact, once Johnson is gone, which he will soon, Gove will be in his element!

“I am a passionate and life-long and devoted Zionist.” Yet the Chief Rabbi used to speak most eloquently about peace a few ages ago. I had the privilege of meeting the then Chief Rabbi when I attended an Anne Frank exhibition. We talked about peace in a way that really encouraged me to hope for the very best in the future. Then, I am brought down to earth with this partisan statement.

“I am a passionate Zionist.” Said by Boris Johnson, who loves to tell us about the Churchill factor about which he knows a great deal. Sadly, Mr Johnson is no Winston Churchill despite all the efforts made to emulate the famous politician’s recognisable bodily posture.

“We do not… believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case of the construction of settlements [on occupied Palestinian lands], when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply complex.” By saying that, Theresa May immediately renders the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so complex that it would be best if Israel just carried on with its current policies that would eventually lead to a one state solution with us Palestinians as a marginal minority of second class citizens.

“I hope I can say I’m not just a good friend of Israel but I am, as you put it, good for Jews.” David Cameron (don’t moan! It’s not nice.) Do you remember him?

Talking about the BDS campaign and its supporters: “ [They] may be a bunch of lunatics, but what they are doing is profoundly wrong and profoundly damaging”… Again David Cameron gives a superb example of one sided political logic.

“I am a Zionist.” David Cameron, again, although what he means is itself worthy of a major political conference (stop moaning! So he called a referendum! So what?).

“…criticism of Israel is punishable by prison…” Angela Merkel declaring that anti-Zionism is the same as anti-Semitism. Wow! Israeli political discourse has met with continuing spectacular success. Can you imagine what we Palestinians living with the Israelis would achieve between us? I mean this. There is no irony intended unless the listener is a Zionist or a member of Fatah or Hamas.

“We will never surrender to the messages of hate; we will not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism”. President Macron. Your laughter tells me that we need go no further in analysing what Manu – Ooops! Sorry – Monsieur le Président de la République Française le Président Manu – is trying to say. I told you, something very strange is happening to political discourse these days.

“Christian evangelicals don’t like Trump because they think he is holy. They like him because they think he’s God’s tool…” Valarie Ziegler, Professor of religious studies at DePauw University on why Jerusalem is the key… I, too, am God’s tool; the God that sends love and urges us to seek peace and harmony in living together.

Which God? Any one of the many by whose creeds we humans claim to live: they all have one thing in common: compassion. Humanity. Decency. Love. Anyone of those or all would do.

“We were the first country to recognise the State of Israel in 1948… We have a solid foundation of trust and understanding to rely on as we make plans for the future.” Why is it that President Putin always has a mischievous smile trembling on his lips every time someone asks him a difficult question.

“Israel is entitled to defend itself by destroying [any] sources of danger…” Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Foreign Minister of Bahrain. You look bemused. I know. I am an Arab and I too am bemused – when I do not feel outraged and betrayed.

“Enough!” I hear you cry.

For seventy years, my entire life, I have felt as I were living in a parallel universe where ordinary moral norms do not apply because I have had to listen to such pronouncements predicated on double standards and mind boggling hypocrisy.

And now we have President Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ negotiated by his son in law Jared Kushner who, along with the United States Ambassador to Israel David Melech Friedman, supports Jewish Settlements on Occupied Palestinian lands and contributes financially to their upkeep. Here we have an honest broker indeed.

We still do not know what this great deal will be. Various leaks appear to indicate that a mini State of Palestine will be created in Gaza (what’s left of it) and in some or all of Sinai. Israel gets to keep 98% of historical Palestine including all the Occupied Palestinian Territories. All Palestinians anywhere in historical Palestine will be moved to this new state in Gaza and Sinai.

No one has asked the Palestinians.

I wonder what the Egyptians feel about giving Sinai away. It is ironic that Moses leading the freed Jewish people through Sinai was a great feat of overcoming the most awful odds. But the forbidden place of the desert of Sinai would be fine for Palestinians.

Having depressed us thoroughly, why do I still feel optimistic?

Let me count the reasons before we settle down to watching a really evocative film:

  1. I am naturally a person full of hope – a dreamer – a poet and, often, a fool. How wonderful.

  2. We Palestinians have not gone away and never will. After seventy years we are still standing fast against a deep injustice.

  3. Our resistance has been largely peaceful. Its most potent weapon has been carrying out Professor Edward Said’s advice of “making permanent Palestinian narratives”.

  4. Things have got so bad now that they can only get better. Israel is overreaching itself because of the carte blanche it has had since 1948 to do whatever it wants. Israel's current government is contemplating the enactment of statutes that can only be described as pure racism of the South African Apartheid kind. History has shown that such arrogant behaviour will invariably bring its own ultimate nemesis.

  5. Ben Gurion is reported to have said early on in the creation of Israel: “The old will die and the young will forget.” The origin of this statement is dubious. However, its emotional veracity is accurate when attributed to the man who wrote to his son in a letter written in the 1930s, “We must expel Arabs (can’t say Palestinians for obvious reasons) and take their place…” In 1948, my father was the old and he has indeed died. I was then young. But I have not forgotten. I will soon die – not too soon I hope and believe given the effort I have been putting in to stay alive as an unreasonable Palestinian. My children were nurtured on their Palestinian origins and their children are now emerging similarly… We shall never go away.

There will be peace whereby Palestinians and Israelis will live together and feel indescribably stupid for not having done so earlier and saved millions of destroyed lives because of greed, false nationalism, jingoism, suspicion and the readiness to be manipulated by factors external to their own joint and separate national narratives.
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